Naming Rights

Naming Rights

Naming rights can yield big returns for districts

Kentucky School Advocate
February 2019

By Matt McCarty
Staff writer
Strawberry Hills Pharmacy purchased the naming rights to McCracken County High School’s gymnasium. The 10-year contract was for $200,000. (Photo courtesy of McCracken County Schools)
Anyone who has attended an event at the University of Kentucky’s Kroger Field or Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center knows that naming rights bring in big money for colleges and universities. 

But selling naming rights is not limited to college and professional sports. At least 25 Kentucky public school districts have naming rights language in their district’s policy.
 
Strawberry Hills Pharmacy purchased the naming rights to McCracken County High School’s gymnasium.
The 10-year contract was for $200,000. (Photo courtesy of McCracken County Schools)

McCracken County Schools began selling naming rights when its consolidated high school opened in 2013, said Superintendent Brian Harper. Since then, the practice has yielded about $1.3 million for the district.

“It’s been a win-win for our community and our school system,” he said. “One advantage I think is just the partnership that you have with your community of supporting the school system. When you have business and community members asking how they can help the school district and wanting to provide additional resources to the school, that’s a positive thing for students.” 

McCracken County’s naming rights contracts vary by facility, but the largest include 10-year contracts totaling $200,000. The high school’s basketball gymnasium is named Strawberry Hills Arena after the local pharmacy which entered into a naming rights contract with the district. 

The district began exploring naming rights when it was working on consolidating Heath, Lone Oak and Reidland high schools, and found that local businesses supported the consolidation because they were always being asked for donations to different schools, he said. 

When businesses secure naming rights in McCracken County, they can earmark the funds to a specific area or to the general fund, Harper said. 

Another benefit of raising money through naming rights is cutting down on the number of fundraisers. While the district still has fundraisers, “this gets us a little bit more flexibility on what we’re able to do with the money,” he said.

A need for more revenue
Several school districts have reached out to McCracken County about its success with naming rights. One of those districts, Christian County, is now planning to do the same.

“One of the main reasons is decreased funding from the state,” school board Chairwoman Linda Keller said. “Every time we turn around there’s more decreased funding or there’s more unfunded mandates, different things like that and we’re always trying to look at the budget to try to find ways so that we can keep funding for our students and programs and still support our district.”

Christian County’s board voted last November to accept naming rights bids for five of its largest athletic facilities. The bid deadline is Feb. 8. 

The revenue from the initial five naming rights would be used to help maintain the athletic facilities and pay for uniforms and equipment. Keller said the additional revenue for the athletic department will free up money for academics. 

If the district expands to selling naming rights elsewhere, such as an auditorium, cafeteria or library, those funds would be used for a particular program. 

“It would not go toward salaries, anything like that,” she said. “It would definitely go toward student improvement for the education of students.” 

Harper said some have asked why the district would need to consider tax increases since it is receiving the extra revenue from naming rights. He said the district lets the community know “we’re trying to be good stewards of our money and it’s all going to benefit kids 

“If you want nice facilities, if you want your teams to travel, you want a theater and a production each year, that costs money. This is money that we are generating so that maybe taxes don’t have to be increased even more to keep the quality of what we’re wanting to do as a district.”
Hunt Brothers Pizza donated $250,000 to help build Paris Independent’s All Sports Training Facility. The business has a distribution center in Paris which is led by CEO and President Erin Hunt Ferguson, who graduated from Paris High School in 1991.
Businesses helping students
Paris Independent opened its All Sports Training Facility in April 2017. Through a foundation that sponsors athletics, the district received more than $800,000 in donations from 360 people and businesses, including a $250,000 donation from Hunt Brothers Pizza.
 
Hunt Brothers Pizza donated $250,000 to help build Paris Independent’s All Sports Training Facility. The business
has a distribution center in Paris which is led by CEO and President Erin Hunt Ferguson, who graduated from
Paris High School in 1991. (Photo courtesy of Paris Independent Schools)

Paris Superintendent Ken Bicknell said while the donation from Hunt Brothers Pizza wasn’t for naming rights, the district recognized the gift by putting the company’s logo on the building.

Bicknell said he would not be opposed to exploring naming rights.

“It’s a great partnership. It really is because of the needs that we all have in our districts,” he said.

Partnerships can benefit businesses more than just having their name on a building. Bicknell said schools are continually reinventing themselves in order to prepare students for the workforce even as they face funding cuts. Money from naming rights can help schools provide more resources to students which in turn could lead to better employees down the road for the businesses. 

“I can remember years ago when businesses were asking schools, ‘How can you help us get what we need in an employer?’’ he said. “And now schools are saying, ‘Hey, what do you need and we’ll do the adjustment.’ It really has almost been a flip.”
 
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