[Your Name Here] Field: Belmont Heads Towards Naming Rights Bylaw

Ever wonder what your family’s name would look like gracing the entrance to the modern auditorium in a new Belmont High School?

How about your company’s name on the side of a new Science Wing?

Would it really bother you if the basketball court in the Wenner Field House had a local-area bank’s logo splashed across the new floor?

Those dreams could come true to you and just about anyone with deep-enough pockets – well, probably Donald Sterling shouldn’t try – if the town follows through with recommendations to create criteria for the selling of naming rights on school buildings, fields and town property.

At the School Committee’s meeting on Tuesday, May 13, Belmont School Committee’s Anne Lougee reviewed the conclusions of a report issued by a committee made up of veteran school supporters as well as Town Administrator David Kale and Belmont Savings Bank’s CEO Robert Mahoney on finding additional revenue sources for the chronically cash-short Belmont School District.

“We concluded that this is a viable option to generate revenue,” said Lougee.

In addition to supporting of using freelance development professionals who would receive a percentage of any funding they obtain, the committee endorsed the creation and approval by Town Meeting of a “naming rights bylaw” that would allow the school committee and town to create guidelines on placing individuals, families and companies names or logos on a wide array of buildings and signs.

One area that has sparked considerable interest, according to Lougee, are the court in the Wenner Field House and the playing surface at Harris Field where Belmont High School football, soccer and lacrosse are played.

The soonest a bylaw could be before Town Meeting is the anticipated Special meeting occurring late this fall.

While new to Belmont, naming buildings, playing fields, individual room and even placing ads on school buses has been gaining traction in school districts across the country from a regional school in Oregon that just established their policy to Tupelo, Mississippi’s where a bank is paying $140,000 to have its name on the high school’s blue-tinted football field for the next decade. There are even marketing firms that will find corporate sponsorship deals for schools.

The bylaw would also establish clearer standards on business and corporate advertising at both indoor and outside athletic venues, either by banners or from a LCD-display screen.

Lougee said while limited, the district already has some experience with corporate sponsorship inside several schools.

“Each year the Scholastic Publishing holds book fairs as fundraisers for several schools,” she noted.

Potentially the biggest draw for potential donors will be with the construction or renovation of a new Belmont High School. Naming rights could be offered on a one-time basis for several sections including the new science wing, computer labs, the  auditorium, libraries, music and art rooms, cafeteria and especially a new gym.

Lougee told the School Committee that several issues must be addressed before the bylaw is considered including if it would be appropriate to the district’s mission, would it be irrevocable, how long would the naming rights last and should all people and corporations be “vetted” before they lend their names to a sign or banner.

But Lougee said while naming rights is not the “$100,000 idea” that will help resolve the revenue issues, “we can expect to generate x amount of dollars.”

But she also noted that while Wellesley – with a similar geographic and town government structure as Belmont – has adopted a bylaw last year, they have yet to receive any proposals for signage or advertising.