Guest post by Gina Cairney
What’s a school to do when it wants to upgrade its athletic facilities but has little to no money? Get creative.
The Whiteland, Ind.-based Clark-Pleasant school district wants to expand and improve its outdoor athletic facilities, according to the Daily Journal of Franklin, and hopes to raise $3 million from commercial advertisements to do it.
Clark-Pleasant school leaders told the Daily Journal that outside funding is needed because of tighter budgets, and according to Forbes, a change made in the Indiana Constitution in 2010 that limits the ability of schools to raise taxes or sell bonds without public approval.
This more aggressive and ambitious approach to secure funding through individual donations and corporate sponsorships isn’t unique to the central-Indiana district. Other school systems throughout the country in recent years have also looked for creative ways to bring in money for expanding and improving school athletic facilities from corporate-sponsored contests, pay-to-play fees, and the sale of naming rights to businesses.
Famous alumni can help, too. Recently, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley donated $60,000 to his old high school district in Michigan to cover the pay-to-play fees of every student-athlete for the entire school year.
One of Clark-Pleasant’s neighbors, the Center Grove Community School Corp. in Greenwood, Ind., got a five-year, $1.1 million commitment from an auto dealership last year that covers pay-to-play fees there in exchange for the dealership’s right to put its name on schools’ athletic facilities, according to Forbes.
Selling naming rights to businesses may be the go-to option for many school athletic programs, but not everyone supports this solution.
In Lewiston, Maine, school committee member James Handy walked out of a committee meeting in July, according to the Sun Journal, after his colleagues discussed selling the naming rights to Franklin Pasture, an athletic facility at Lewiston High School, which is owned by the city, not the school department.
So if the Clark-Pleasant school system succeeds in getting its $3 million, how will the funds be spent?
The money will go toward doubling the seating capacity to 5,000 at Whiteland Community High School’s football field and replacing the field with artificial turf, according to the Associated Press. New running tracks and improvements to the soccer, baseball, and softball facilities are also in the plans.
“Academics always have to come first, but I think we need a well-balanced program between academics, the arts, and sports,” Becky Courtney-Knight, Clark-Pleasant’s interim superintendent, told the AP.
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.