Sunday, December 8, 2013
By Mike Lowe email@example.com
LEWISTON - High school football players here have been playing at Don Roux Field since 2001, when David Roux, son of the late community benefactor, donated money to upgrade the athletic facilities at the Franklin Pasture Sports Complex.
Fern Masse, left, former Lewiston High School athletic director, and Jason Fuller, the current AD, want to renovate sports fields at the city-owned Franklin Pasture Sports Complex in Lewiston by selling naming rights – not only for the complex, but for individual fields, concession stands and scoreboards, too.
Photos by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer
Eleven years later, the complex needs more renovations, and the community is taking a new approach to paying for them: selling naming rights, or sponsorships.
Knowing the deep roots that Don Roux had, not only in Lewiston High's sports history but in the community, athletic director Jason Fuller has made it clear that Roux's name will not be lost. While the complex may be named something else, he said, "this field will always be Don Roux Field at 'This' complex, whatever that might be."
Selling naming rights is nothing new to professional sports teams. The New England Patriots play at Gillette Stadium, the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park, the New York Giants and Jets at MetLife Stadium, the Boston Bruins and Celtics at TD Garden.
But the practice has been picked up in recent years by high schools looking to repair, or replace, aging stadiums or gymnasiums amid dwindling budgets.
In the past, high schools would generally honor a former coach, standout athlete or community benefactor by dedicating the field or gym to that person.
Now, companies such as New Balance, Rust-Oleum, Poland Spring, IKEA and Verizon have provided high schools from Massachusetts to Illinois, Arkansas and Washington state with hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve facilities in exchange for having their names on the finished product.
"It's certainly happening," said Bruce Howard, a spokesman for the National Federation of State High School Associations. "I've been here for 27 years and I remember a time long ago when just the thought of any kind of corporate sponsorship was an ouchy feel for state associations or high schools.
"But we've obviously progressed to a point where something like this is accepted."
AVOIDING ASKING TAXPAYERS
Lewiston is seeking to renovate its athletic fields at the city-owned Franklin Pasture Sports Complex by selling naming rights -- not only for the complex, but individual fields, concession stands and scoreboards as well. It is even seeking sponsorships for individual teams.
The renovations would include two artificial turf fields -- one for football and soccer, the other for lacrosse and field hockey; new lighting, seating, concession stands, a new track surrounding the football field, a new irrigation system, resurfaced tennis courts, rest rooms and storage facilities.
The baseball and softball fields will get a facelift as well. The cost: $5 million, which includes $1.2 million for future maintenance.
"I think we're doing it the right way," said Fuller. "It would be unrealistic at this point to look at the people of Lewiston and say, 'Let's raise taxes to build this for us.' For us, I think this is the best avenue to do it. I don't want to burden the taxpayers."
Both the Lewiston School Committee and City Council approved the plan, which was the brainchild of Fuller and other members of the Franklin Pasture trustees, a group that oversees the sports complex. The trustees came up with a corporate underwriting program to establish the naming rights costs, allowing for even the smallest donation to be recognized.
"We didn't want to just start asking for money without a plan in place, so we created a corporate underwriting plan that kind of dictates how money could be donated and what the guidelines are if you donated money," said Fuller.
For example, you can put your company name on the entire complex for 15 years for $750,000. Too pricey for you?
(Continued on page 2)
click image to enlarge
Hannaford Field at Cape Elizabeth High School was named in response to the supermarket chain’s gift of $100,000 to the fundraising drive for the artificial turf. The company did not ask for its name to go on the field.