May 16th, 2011

County selling advertising space in public parks

Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Welcome to the Brohard Park public beach in Venice, now sponsored by the U Do It Dog Wash.

The dog grooming service recently paid $500 to have its blue metal sign bolted to the entrance gate to the county dog park in Venice for a year.

The sign is part of a new effort by Sarasota County to sell advertisements at public parks, and is the latest of numerous programs across Florida and the nation to use marketing of government-owned resources to generate new revenue during the recession.

For the prominent placement of the sign, the owners of U Do It paid the $500 to the non-profit Friends of Sarasota County Parks, which is administering the county’s new marketing effort.

U Do It now joins advertisers who are pitching their services at the Arlington and Ken Thompson paw parks in Sarasota. At those parks, another groomer paid $2,000 for two signs, about the size of a standard sheet of paper, to have exclusive right to bathe dogs in his solar-powered van.

Such signs could become far more common at area parks now that the friends group has embarked on an aggressive campaign to sell more sponsorships.

The commissioners signed an agreement with the Friends group last summer, expanding what the group had traditionally done for the parks, such as clean-up and leading tours.

Though the effort has started slowly, the county commission has given Friends group staffer Marianne Lorentzen the ability to negotiate contracts up to $1 million, which would pay for naming rights by a major corporation.

The commission has to approve deals at $50,000 or more; staff can approve smaller amounts.

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