Last updated: June 10. 2014 1:44PM - 187 Views
By - cberendt@civitasmedia.com



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Offering paid naming rights for City of Clinton recreation facilities continues to be discussed by city officials, who are still mulling sponsor costs and the length of time those sponsors will own the rights.


With some wording in the proposed naming rights policy hashed out, the City Council has narrowed its focus on possibly offering 10-year rights as opposed to 5-year ones, however it is unknown how that will affect the dollar amounts attached to those sponsorships.


City managerial staff were expected to modify the proposal yet again for Council’s consideration next week.


Some language in the proposed policy was modified following concerns by Council members, specifically to note that the city, not sponsors, would have the responsibility to replace vandalized signs. Councilman Steve Stefanovich then narrowed the Council’s focus to the length of the naming rights, stating a longer period should be considered.


“I am wondering if 10 (years) would be better than five,” Stefanovich said. “To me, it just seems that five years just goes by so quickly. I don’t know if we could double these numbers if you went to 10 years, but I’m wondering if you wouldn’t have more takers — and there may be enough takers now, I don’t know.”


Council members have said they were pleased with the prospect of offering naming rights — which currently range from $15,000 for a picnic shelter to $250,000 for Royal Lane Park itself — but have continued to mull the draft.


Recreation director Jonathan Allen presented the complete draft, recommended by the Recreation Advisory Board, to Council at a May 1 budget workshop. The matter was simply offered for members’ consideration at that time, but brought back at last month’s regular meeting, as well as last’s week regular June session.


“At any point, when you do decide to adopt a policy, Mr. Allen and myself would come back to Council when sponsorships were actually in place and would look at specific projects,” cty manager Shawn Purvis said last month. “At this point, it is just outlining how we would go about assigning these kind of projects.”


The policy formalizes the process, and monetary amounts associated with the naming of recreational facilities such as fields, playgrounds, courts and smaller amenities such as picnic shelters and even benches. Those naming rights would potentially provide revenue to fund renovations and additions to city parks and amenities, Purvis said.


That revenue will be a boost toward paying expenses on the horizon.


Clinton is in a good position to receive a $864,000 Parks & Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) grant, which would provide half the entire funding and leave the city with a $432,000 tab to be paid off over three years. Purvis said paid sponsorships in return for naming rights would be a huge benefit for collecting the local dollars needed to pay for renovations.


In its initial draft, city staff recommended five-year rates for naming rights that included, among others, $50,000 for each baseball or soccer field; $250,000 for the recreational complex; $150,000 for the gymnasium; $35,000 for each leg of the walking trail; $25,000 for each playground; $25,000 for each set of regulation tennis courts; and $15,000 for each picnic shelter.


During last week’s meeting, Stefanovich asked how the dollar amounts were established. Allen said Rec Advisory members looked at some towns, including Dunn and Wilmington, and the dollar amounts they charged. Councilman Neal Strickland said “there is a world of difference” between Clinton and Wilmington. He asked that city staff gauge the costs for naming rights in other towns, including Lumberton, Elizabethtown, Hope Mills and others.


Purvis asked whether Council would prefer the naming policy be structured in a way that the payments are made over the first five years, but the sponsor would have naming rights for an additional five years after that.


“I don’t know if we need to be out drumming the drum every five years trying to raise money for this thing. That’s going to be an issue,” Stefanovich replied. “I think five years is just a really short window when you’re doing something on this scale.”


“Five years is short,” Mayor Lew Starling agreed.


Purvis said he and Allen were very aware of the 10-year prospect and volleyed that possibility around during the development of the policy before opting for five. Stefanovich noted the naming policy is practiced in local churches all the time, and there is no expiration period, so the city should think about attaching a longer period to its practice.


“I think a 10-year period in my estimation is probably a little more fair,” Stefanovich noted. “We just don’t need to be drumming the drum every five years, because as you know most of the people who are going to do these are already spending a lot of money on these things and every other thing that is going on.”


Starling suggested the numbers be crunched a bit further and 10-year possibilities included in the next draft of the policy for consideration at the Council’s special meeting to adopt the budget next week.


Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121. Follow us on twitter @SampsonInd.

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