City could sell ads to pay for sports

NASHUA – The outside of the Nashua High School South gymnasium facing busy Route 3 is one place that could soon be home to corporate advertising intended to offset budget cuts.

Monday night, the Board of Education gave Athletic Director Peter Casey the go ahead to explore opportunities to place advertising at various athletic venues in the district.

Money generated from the advertising would help offset a 4 percent cut to the athletics department for next year.

The board’s vote came with the caveat that any advertising, including placement, would require board review and approval, in addition to routine monthly updates from Casey on the status of any advertising.

Earlier this year, a committee of district staff, parents and community members recommended eliminating middle school athletics, a proposal that drew vigorous opposition from the community.

In response, the board charged the committee to come up with a different proposal that did not involve eliminating middle school sports.

Casey said several ideas were explored, including a user fee system, commonly referred to as “pay to play.”

Casey said the idea that made the most sense to the committee was to explore advertising at sporting events.

The advertising is part of the committee’s revised proposal to help make up the $38,385 cut to the athletic department for next year.

Along with the outside of the South gym, Casey said advertising could be sold at Stellos Stadium, the athletic fields at both high schools and on the athletic department Web sites for the high schools.

Any advertising would be tasteful and simple, Casey said, with a white background and a one-color logo. Advertising for alcohol or tobacco products would be prohibited, he said.

“Please do not mistake this as an opportunity to look like a minor league outfield where it’s just a complete barrage of sponsorships,” Casey said.

“We want to uphold the integrity of the mission of high school athletics,” he said.

The goal is for the district to generate $26,490 from the advertising.

To make up the other $11,995 needed to reach the 4 percent cut, the district would cut $1,500 from each of the three middle school’s intramural budgets and $7,495 from the Phoenix Program’s intramural budget.

Casey said too much has been budgeted for the programs in the past. The cuts would leave $4,500 for middle school intramurals, which he said would be enough to operate them.

Board member Rick Dowd said he has been advocating generating revenue with advertising at Stellos Stadium for several years. But placing ads on the outside of a school would be going too far, he said.

“I think that’s far too commercial,” he said. “I would not want to spoil the looks of the school.”

Of the areas being proposed for advertising, Casey said the side of the South gymnasium would be the biggest draw and would generate the most money because of the high visibility.

Casey said he had already spoken to a local chain restaurant that would be interested in advertising in that spot.

The appeal for advertisers would be the exposure and the opportunity to contribute to the community, he said.

The next most visible area would be Stellos Stadium, Casey said. The stadium not only hosts high school sporting events but several regional championships throughout the year, he said.

At Stellos, advertisements could be placed on the outdoor concourse, on the fences surrounding the field and on the press box and scoreboards, he said.

There is already a city ordinance that allows for the creation of a special revenue fund in which the district can place money that is generated from advertising revenue, he said.

“It’s never been utilized in the past,” Casey said.

Instead of placing ads on the side of South, board member Robert Hallowell suggested possibly building a sign next to the highway. That would avoid having to place an ad on the school and would increase visibility, he said.

Casey said his intent is to keep the number of areas with advertising to a minimum, ideally the high schools and Stellos Stadium. At the high schools, advertising banners could also be placed inside the gymnasiums, he said.

All expenses incurred would be deducted from the cost of the sponsorships, with all net profits going to the athletics budget.

Although “pay to play” was discussed, Casey said the committee decided it was not viable, given the economic climate and the high percentage of students already living in low-income households.

Looking for ways to save money, Casey said he has talked with representatives from Conway Arena about better ice rental rates for the high school hockey teams.

The district spends $36,000 annually on ice rental fees, Casey said.