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Yarmouth schools eye corporate sponsors for fields, facilties

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Yarmouth schools eye corporate sponsors for fields, facilties

YARMOUTH — Corporate logos could soon adorn public school sports fields and properties.

The School Committee began a discussion about corporate sponsorship and naming rights of the School Department's athletic fields, and possibly other facilities, at its Jan. 10 meeting, with the intent of exploring fundraising options for the department and organizations like booster clubs.

The money from the sponsorships could be used to fund new capital projects or as a revenue source, but at this point, nothing is defined.

"We're really at an early stage in considering this, but having a conversation early is important," Superintendent of Schools Judy Paolucci said. "The main direction is to see how other school systems have approached this and then how do you decide what is an appropriate corporation."

Obvious exclusions would be alcohol and tobacco companies, Paolucci said.

"You wouldn't want to have a Miller Light Field," she said.

The committee will also have to consider the mechanisms and policies to guide the types of sponsorship, like banners or naming of whole fields, how the money is used and what the town ordinance requirements are for advertising.

Although most of the committee's discussion centered around sponsorship of athletic fields, Paolucci said the policy would "possibly address other school property."

Other towns and school departments, including Freeport and Cape Elizabeth, already allow corporate sponsorships.

David Neujahr, a booster club parent who brought the issue to the committee, was a member of the Turf Committee that recommended a $1.5 million bond approved by voters last November. He said the bond skimped on amenities like a new fieldhouse with bathrooms, an indoor grilling area and locker rooms, to keep the cost down. Sponsorship would create an alternative fundraiser, he said.

"We really tried to scale back the budget on the turf committee, which is why (the fieldhouse) wasn't included in the bond," Neujahr said. "We knew it was not going to be covered under the bond, so what's the next thing?"

Allowing corporate sponsorship of publicly owned facilities can be controversial, but developing a thoughtful policy can help mitigate problems that arise, committee Chairwoman Abby Diggins said.

"Basically, if we go this route, we need to have a policy with parameters," she said. "This could be a great source for funds, but we need to take a look at the bigger picture and adopt a philosophical approach. Several of the School Committee members were ambivalent and on the fence about how it would work and were having hard time going one way or another. People are just trying to get their heads around how it would work."

The policy committee will research sponsorship in other towns and school districts and likely report back to the committee within a month.

"We have a lot of work left to do on this," Paolucci said.

Will Graff can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or wgraff@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @W_C_Graff.