March 10th, 2009

Sun Prairie School District Sells Naming Rights to Baseball Field

By Gena Kittner
Wisconsin State Journal

With the announcement of the new Summit Credit Union Baseball Field, Sun Prairie has likely become the first Dane County school district to sell the naming rights for a specific school facility.

And the high school’s varsity baseball field could be just the beginning: District officials want to sell naming rights to everything from the classrooms and the cafeteria to trophy cases and field lights at the new high school slated to open in the fall of 2010.

“Our goal is to have as many of the big items named before the school opens,” said Jim McCourt, Sun Prairie School Board treasurer and member of the Naming Rights Subcommittee.

The subcommittee has a tentative goal of selling more than $3 million in naming rights. However, district officials say business or individual monikers would be presented tactfully, such as a plaque bearing a person’s name on the back of an auditorium seat or above a classroom doorway.

“It’s not like we’re going to have banners all over the school,” McCourt said.

On Tuesday the district announced Summit Credit Union as the first company to be granted naming rights for a district facility, under the new policy to allow for names of businesses attached to facilities, in exchange for donations.

The School Board approved the naming rights agreement with Summit on Monday night, which will be in effect for 20 years. The credit union donated $99,537, which pays for about a third of the cost of the field that will have artificial turf on the infield.

Few school districts in Wisconsin have worked out naming rights partnerships with local businesses, according to the Sun Prairie district, but Sheboygan and Fond du Lac are two districts that have.

Ken Syke, spokesman for the Madison School District, said the district has a policy that allows for sale of naming rights, but none have been sold.

In Sun Prairie, money for naming rights would go either for a specific feature, such as the baseball field’s artificial turf, or to the Sun Prairie Education Foundation, an organization that funds special projects within the district.

Big donations, such as naming the cafeteria or library, would need School Board approval, said Phil Frei, deputy district administrator.

Josh Golin, assistant director for Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood based in Boston, said the organization has heard of more districts throughout the country selling naming rights “because of the economic downturn and schools are starved for funding.”

Golin said the organization opposes advertising in schools because “there needs to be some places that are off limits for advertising.”


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