August 10th, 2009

Cities Look for Revenue Through Naming Rights -- Even on Potholes

By Michael Malik
Journal & Courier (Indiana)

Imagine advertisements on potholes.

Louisville, Ky., is doing it. An agreement between that city and hometown KFC Corp. has the fast food chain paying to fill potholes on Louisville streets. The cost to the city: Allow the message “Refreshed by KFC” to be stenciled in chalk on nearby pavement.

The deal has other cities exploring similar partnerships to make money for repairs and services without raising taxes. That includes a recent arrangement between Indianapolis and a marketing company, called Third Street Partners, to explore marketing agreements, sponsorships and naming rights.

What about something similar for Greater Lafayette? Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski and West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis expressed concerns about private companies funding annual operating costs, such as filling potholes and other ongoing city services.

But they remained open to other public-private partnerships, especially when they involve one-time costs of buying equipment or building structures.

“I’m always open minded, but I think you have to be cautious of people funding operational expenses reoccurring year after year,” Roswarski said.

Roswarski said his concern would be if the company paying to fill potholes went out of business or pulled back on the deal, it would leave the city scrambling to find money to get the job done.

Jane Boswell, one of the founding members of the Ninth Street Hill Neighborhood Association, said her neighborhood already is cluttered with signs. More signs and advertisements, she said, should not be the aim.

“It could become like visual litter,” Boswell said. “We already have enough signs.”

Lafayette and West Lafayette isn’t above corporate sponsorships to get projects done. In Lafayette, businesses have paid for large portions of renovations to Columbian Park in exchange for naming rights to animal exhibits or playgrounds. West Lafayette police officers have had bulletproof vests paid for with financial donations from Wal-Mart.

But Dennis said he doesn’t think it would be in the best interest of West Lafayette to start putting advertisements from companies around town.

However, the idea of the city trying to find alternative sources of revenue is “worthy of discussion,” Dennis said.

In Indianapolis, nothing has happened yet along the lines of the KFC-sponsored pothole work being done in Louisville. No advertisers have signed up and no money has been exchanged.

But the ideas are rolling in.

Third Street has suggested partnering with an insurer to underwrite part of the cost of salting the city’s streets in the winter, or finding a cleaning-products company to sponsor street-cleaning and graffiti-removal efforts.

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