Archive for Sunday, January 22, 2017

Lawrence City Commission to consider naming rights for parks, other facilities

Lawrence resident and University of Kansas distinguished professor emeritus Po-Lung Yu performs stretching exercises on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017 at Sports Pavilion Lawrence. Lawrence city staff is working on a policy to address the naming rights of parks and recreation facilities.

Lawrence resident and University of Kansas distinguished professor emeritus Po-Lung Yu performs stretching exercises on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017 at Sports Pavilion Lawrence. Lawrence city staff is working on a policy to address the naming rights of parks and recreation facilities.

January 22, 2017


Getting the name of a private citizen or business on City of Lawrence property could soon be done with the signing of a check.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department has a lot of assets to maintain — recreation centers, swimming pools and even a golf course — and a proposed sponsorship policy that would usher in some new ways of paying the bills.

City Manager Tom Markus said sponsorships can help support operating and maintenance costs, such as replacing playground equipment, exercise machines or gym floors, that cities don’t always keep in mind when they decide to build facilities.

“Actually keeping the facility up to date and keeping it attractive for the user, there is a cost associated with that,” Markus said. “People tend to put the facilities in and then they forget about them.”

The City Commission will be the one to decide the extent of those sponsorships. Funds from sponsorships could support one-time programs, or go toward specific items. That could mean sponsors could show up on pavers, benches, park shelters, scoreboards, banners, and, potentially, be incorporated into the names of city parks or recreation centers.

However, some local leaders are hesitant. Mayor Leslie Soden said she is opposed to taking sponsorship as far as naming rights or even permanent banners for parks and facilities.

“I don’t’ think that the bigger exterior type of signs, the more permanent ones, are appropriate,” Soden said. “It just looks like we put our city up for auction.”

A draft of the new sponsorship policy outlines how the city could solicit donations from residents and business to back Parks and Recreation Department programs and facilities, and a public meeting will be held Monday to get community input.

Once input is gathered, city commissioners will review, amend and approve the policy. Among other things, the policy will lay out which circumstances will require City Commission approval, as well as which facilities or programs, if any, will be barred from sponsorship or naming rights.

Drawing a line

The Parks and Recreation Department maintains 54 parks, a citywide trail system, four recreation centers, two aquatic centers, a nature center, a golf course, and offers hundreds of programs, classes and camps annually.

Where a line would be drawn that prohibited certain facilities or services from sponsorships is yet to be determined.

The draft policy written by city staff includes a section for such prohibitions, but contains only the words “to be named,” so as to leave that part of the policy to city commissioners.

Commissioner Mike Amyx said he didn’t have a problem with smaller features such as park shelters or benches, but that he’s against changing the names of prominent parks in the city.

“I wouldn’t be in favor of looking at any of our signature parks, of ever allowing that to happen,” Amyx said. “I think that would be absolutely wrong. I think those are just near and dear to the greatest majority of citizens in this community.”

Soden also said she is OK with program sponsorships and donations for smaller features, but that she is opposed to naming rights under any circumstances. She said permanent and prominent naming sends the wrong message.

“I don’t want us to send the message that our facilities are for sale when it comes to large advertising,” Soden said. “I don’t think that’s an appropriate message to send out.”

Soden said she thought other budgetary measure should be considered first.

“I think that if Parks and Rec is looking for that extreme of sponsorship, I think we really need to look at their budget and see what else we can do to help them fund their facilities and operations rather than selling off naming rights to buildings.”

Potential for conflict

The intersection of private dollars and public services presents the potential for conflict, and the draft policy attempts to curtail conflicts of interest.

The draft requires that donations must be for a specific facility or service, essentially avoiding unattached donations. The draft also states that the city won’t seek or accept sponsors that take positions inconsistent with city policies or positions, and that a sponsorship doesn’t constitute an endorsement by the city.

The importance of public trust is highlighted in the introduction to the policy, and one provision maintains that every offer of sponsorship should be evaluated for possible conflicts of interest. Soden said she thinks that section will be another that requires further consideration by the commission.

“That’s definitely something that I think that the policy is going to address,” Soden said.

Not unprecedented

But it’s not to say the city is in completely uncharted territory. Markus pointed out that public universities have a long history of using donations and naming rights to fund facilities.

“You go out on different campuses and major buildings are named after major benefactors who have contributed millions for schools of business, schools of law, medical facilities, things like that,” Markus said.

In addition, some sponsorships in Lawrence are already underway, the most prominent of which is a seven-year, $50,000 sponsorship by Lawrence Memorial Hospital at the city’s newest recreation center, Sports Pavilion Lawrence.

Last year, revenue from sponsorships and donations for the Parks and Recreation Department totaled about $115,000, which includes revenue from various ads in the department’s activities guide.

Amyx said he views sponsorships as a way to manage operational costs.

“As we look at the effects on our budget over time, I think that we’re going to be looking at ways to help with operational funds on various things, and maybe that’s the best way to look at sponsorship,” Amyx said.

Who makes the call

As currently written, the policy dictates that a proposed sponsorship will require different levels of review and approval depending on the amount and length of the sponsorship.

At the top level is City Commission approval, which would be required for sponsorships that would generate $25,000 or more for the city or last for more than five years.

The city manager would have the authority to make sponsorship decisions up to five years and between $15,000 and $25,000 per year. All other sponsorship decisions would require at least the review of the Parks and Recreation Department director, but could be referred to the city manager.

As far as parameters for naming rights, Markus said he understood the concerns of commercialization, especially with facilities funded largely by taxpayer dollars. He said the commission could decide on a certain threshold that guarantees some level of naming right, or make all naming decisions the discretion of the commission. He said he favored making it the commission’s decision.

“I don’t really want to create necessarily a hard-line policy where you automatically get (naming rights) once you pass the threshold,” Markus said. “I think it has to be somewhat contextualized to what’s going on at the time and whether you really want to do that.”

A combined effort

A sponsorship policy would support other existing revenue sources for the Parks and Recreation Department, such as taxes and fees.

The department currently does not charge entrance fees for its recreation centers, but does charge fees for programming and classes. To help with accessibility, the department subsidizes a significant portion of the cost of several programs, such as programming for seniors, entrance to the city’s aquatic centers and programming at the Prairie Park Nature Center.

The department is preparing to re-evaluate its fee structure, and its budget will likely get more scrutiny in the process.

Markus said sponsorships can bring in another source of revenue that isn’t property tax, sales tax or user fees.

“When they say we’ve got taxes that pay for all that, well, then, who is paying those taxes?” Markus said. “Usually I try to look at those things in a more balanced way and maybe split the cost (among) more than a few sources so you can create a more equitable financial arrangement.”

The City of Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department’s Advisory Board will hold a public meeting Monday to discuss the proposed policy on sponsorships. The meeting will be held 6 p.m. Monday at the Union Pacific Depot, 402 N. Second St. An online survey will also be available on Lawrence Listens.

Contact city reporter Rochelle Valverde
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Bob Forer 1 year, 2 months ago

Cut out the tax giveaways to the wealthy and the problem is solved.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago

Then direct the quarter cent sales tax to the walkable community because not only does the project need the revenue it provides an efficient, safe and healthy means to "get around" Lawrence,Kansas.

The project will need to be maintained so we keep fixing trails and walkways and bikeways in addition to maintaining the landscape accordingly. Someday another mile or two will be necessary.

Dedicating this revenue to the above demonstrates fiscal responsibility.

I did not vote for this tax because the wording was tricky and was dedicated to nothing just more money being thrown at some items that once came from the "general budget".

Just think how successful taxpayers could be IF our tax dollars were no longer wiped off the face of earth by way of reckless tax dollar subsidies.

Deb Stavin 1 year, 2 months ago

No! Naming a city property after a person should be an honor bestowed, not sold.

Bob Summers 1 year, 2 months ago

Cut out frivolous spending and the problem is solved.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago

And a name on a park,sports facility,trail etc etc etc could be of a local neighborhood activist, or a good parent or of a struggling student that made good,or of someone seen walking their pets through a neighborhood.

Too many things are named after politicians who spent a lot of time on a tax dollar payroll who also took in a lot of special interest campaign money that when on a campaign trail said one thing yet when back to work voted against the taxpaying people = why name anything after this person?

Lots of "normal" people work hard everyday,work hard for citizens as volunteers,pay taxes,challenge politicians ,care for others and in general are kind and concerned yet are not recognized for being what keeps government functioning for the people because of not being famous enough. Why is this?

Is it true if one is not wealthy, a local official,elected official,rock star,baseball star etc etc etc that others are not hard working important people? Worthy of being recognized as a taxpayer?

Bob Summers 1 year, 2 months ago

I think to counter the racism in Lawrence schools, using a special tax for their cause, BLM should be sponsored and named to a recreation center.

Felix Testor 1 year, 2 months ago

Put it to a vote next time we vote. No hurry.

I find the names on things gross and they turn me off of the business that splash their names out there. The big sign on the ski lake doesn't make me consider that business advertised in a better light than it did before. Public parks shouldn't have their naming rights sold to the highest bidder.

What if we did so and it was a place that donated a lot of money to a cause that polarizes the population- such as women's reproductive way or the other? Then half the population of Lawrence would have to have that reality in their feelings about their city.

What if we excluded all businesses that have political opinions? Wouldn't that open us up to lawsuits from businesses that felt that exclusion was unjust? There's precedent.

We may be better off leaving this alone and focusing on financial inefficiencies. Maybe we have too many big city trucks and could use smaller, fuel efficient cars for getting around between departments? Maybe we should stop hiring consultants for things and hire full-time employees to research? Isn't that less while supporting the local economy? There are ways to efficiently use what we have versus grabbing for more in this way. It isn't the way I picture or charming city. We can do better without selling our city to commercial advertising.

Marilyn Hull 1 year, 2 months ago

Setting the amount that requires commission approval at $25,000 allows the Pepsi contract for $24,000 to fly under the radar. That bothers me. I'd like to see public discussion on that one because some of the company's products are very unhealthy.

I hope commissioners will discuss funding future facilities as well as existing ones. Naming rights, if done well, could help us build out our trail system.

Commissioners should also discuss how amounts are set. $50,000/year seems low relative to the total cost of operating Sports Pavilion Lawrence.

Kevin Kelly 1 year, 2 months ago

Let's re-name the City and charge for that.

Capitol One Ville?

        Fritzel City?


                  Pottersville?  Oh, That was used in "Wonderful Life", but it sure does parallel what is happening here.

Bonnie Uffman 1 year, 2 months ago

Thank you, Mayor Leslie Soden. I really hope that there are still some things that money can't buy.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 year, 2 months ago

I know those commissioners are getting filthy rich from their high commission pay. /sarcasm/.

Randy Laggart 1 year, 2 months ago

Seems like a very simple way to raise funds without raising taxes. If there is no change to the service the facilities provide, I don't see a problem.

Martin Brody 1 year, 2 months ago

"Human rights rally this weekend at Taco John's Park!"

I think it's a bad idea to name parks after people and corporations. It might seem nice at the time, but after a while those named parks have little meaning. I'm curious how many people on the street know who Dad Perry and Buford Watson were.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago

We must be sure that all money comes with zero strings attached ...... because donations become the property of all taxpayers.

Give money out of the goodness of your heart or else keep your money UNLESS approved otherwise by a city wide vote.

Steve Jacob 1 year, 2 months ago

Just saying, if KU didn't put the names on building of people who helped pay for the building, there would be less buildings on KU. It's a ego thing. This is Lawrence, Kansas, your social standing depends on how close you get to sit to the floor at basketball games.

David Holroyd 1 year, 2 months ago

No one in their right mind would want a public facility/park/ with their name on it unless the city plans to maintain the named "place".

I always remember a KU professor's wife who told me: Do not give money for a building to be named after you unless you plan to set up an endowment for maintenance.!!

Perfect example of that is the Anschutz library with decrepit exterior shabby interior. Wonder what Wendell thinks about it?

Would the city accept a $100,000 donation to have a new jail named after a former Mayor? How greedy is the city becoming?

David Holroyd 1 year, 2 months ago

Mr.Heckler, Mr. Fritzel gave a gift to the community...whatcha think about that?

Speaking of Mr. Fritzel, will the Journal World receive a copy of the telephone "mediation", aka a transcript?

Mediation is better than depositions I guess.

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