Tuesday, December 10, 2013
What's in a name? For a growing number of Maine schools, the name on the outside of playing fields could mean the difference between having a quality facility and one that's falling apart.
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. Other schools should also consider going to the business community to help support sports programs before taking a bigger slice out of the budget.
John Patriquin/Staff Photographer
That's why community leaders in Lewiston are looking to sell naming rights to the sports complex that is home to Don Roux Field.
It's a move that we have all gotten used to on the professional level, but it's new for public school facilities here. With the intense pressure on schools to do more with less, however, it makes a lot of sense.
Lewiston is right to bring in outside donors to pay for renovations of its stadium, and other schools should consider going to the business community to help support sports programs before taking a bigger slice out of the budget.
There is no question that sports are valuable. They teach teamwork and discipline and promote physical fitness. Studies show that students who are involved in sports do better academically. But they have fierce competition when it comes to parceling out scarce public dollars. Other extracurricular programs, such as art and music, also add value to a student's education, and core academic programs themselves are also fighting for more resources.
But sports teams, which bring whole communities together, have an opportunity to raise money in ways that the other programs do not. Few businesses would pay to have their name on a classroom or a hallway, but they would for a gym, stadium or other facility that welcomes the public, and they should be allowed to do it. Athletic programs are not the only ones that can raise money through selling naming rights, but they have an opportunity to lead the way.
Traditionalists won't like it. Many athletic fields are named for a beloved former coach or for a community or veterans organization. It's fitting for students to learn to respect the past and honor the people who came before them.
But if it means the difference between having a safe and attractive facility, or having nothing at all, the traditionalists should learn to live with this kind of sponsorship.
It might sound strange at first to talk about the game you saw using a name more familiar as a retail store or a shoemaker, but if it gives more kids a chance to participate in sports, it would be worth it.