March 8th, 2009

Suffolk Plan to Sell Naming Rights at County Parks

By Rick Brand
Newsday

Suffolk officials, looking to scrape together every last nickel in this bad economy, are asking businesses to buy advertising displays, signs and naming rights on everything from golf tees, campsites and hiking trails to county dog runs.

County Executive Steve Levy said he is using the parks department as a pilot, which if successful, could lead to a wider effort to make county buildings and properties available for advertising. The county formally put out a request for expressions of interest this week and responses are due April 2.

The county executive said the county’s three golf courses, 13 campsites hundreds of miles of hiking trails and two new dog parks, could give industries exactly the kind of customers they are looking for.

“It will be more productive to have a Petco dog run or a Coleman campground, than it is to haphazardly put your advertising somewhere,” Levy said. “Here, you’re targeting a very captive audience.”

But Levy conceded it may be difficult to make the idea work in today’s fiscal times, and said there may be limits down the road.

“We can name a courthouse after judge, but not a law firm,” he said.

Suffolk already has a 10-year, $2.3 million naming rights deal for Citibank Park in Central Islip, which is home to the Long Island Ducks, an agreement with one year left. Levy said the county will seek a new naming deal separately for the ballpark.

Frank Boulton, owner of the Ducks, sells interior signage at the ballpark, and acknowledged that the sour economy could make it difficult for the county to find buyers.

“Obviously, it’s a tougher business environment for anything,” he said. “Major corporations are trading at a dollar. . . . People are being very careful on how they are spending their marketing money.”

Suffolk’s proposal follows Nassau County, which is negotiating with Clear Channel Communications on a long-term contract that would allow the media giant to place 65 digital signs outside the six major county parks.

A tentative deal outlined last September calls for $86 million in ad revenue for the county over a 20-year period and a goody bag of extras, including free benches, tables and trash baskets at the five largest parks.

“We are in the process of finalizing our agreement and we should have it ready to send to the legislature in March - April at the latest,” Deputy County Executive Ian Siegel said Friday.

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