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Officials seek sponsors, advertisers for complex; Sports park won't get new name, but businesses will get recognition


The Carroll County Sports Complex is no PSINet Stadium, but local officials are hoping to drum up funds for the park with new advertising deals and corporate sponsors.

Unlike in the $105.5 million deal between the Ravens and PSINet, businesses here won't be allowed to change the complex's name. But they will be able to hang banners at the five baseball and two soccer fields, sell their wares at the park and advertise on a new scrolling electronic sign.

"We've been looking for ways to operate the sports complex in a self-sustaining manner since it opened eight years ago," said Jeff Degitz, chief of the county's Bureau of Recreation.

In fiscal year 1998, which ended June 30, the complex -- on Route 97 just north of Route 496 -- took in $62,000 and spent $89,000, with the county making up the difference.

This year's budget was increased to $128,000 because the complex will handle the concession stand in-house -- purchasing food and paying staff -- instead of contracting for the service.

Carroll is not the only county looking at corporate relationships.

In Baltimore County, a proposal to sell public parks' naming rights is under review by the county attorney's office and will be presented to the commission for a vote.

In May, officials in Howard County considered the idea, but it eventually died.

At the Carroll park, a $17,000 scrolling sign will be installed next month across from the concession stand. It was paid for by Coca-Cola and will include the brand name. An agreement forbids the complex from selling beverages other than those made by Coca-Cola.

Businesses can buy time on the 7-foot-by-4-foot sign -- $40 for a week or $640 for a season -- with their messages appearing on a rotating basis.

Speaking of advertising and sponsorships available at the park, complex manager Scott Singleton said, "There will be a range of prices because businesses have different goals and different marketing budgets."

Sponsorships are available for from $50 to $1,200.

For example, with a $300 sponsorship of a league or tournament, "your business name will be saluted as a gold sponsor on the electronic message board for a period of one month, and your business name may appear in some correspondence and/or on some uniforms," according to sports complex documents.

About 400 letters promoting the advertising opportunities were sent to area businesses this month, Singleton said, but so far no one has signed up.

"We want to focus on local businesses -- not Nike and McDonald's," Degitz said. "We want to give local companies the opportunities first."

Advertisements for alcohol and cigarettes will be permitted at adult tournaments, Degitz said, but the concession stand will not sell either kind of product.

"That was never proposed," he said. "Politically, that would not be popular."

Richard Soisson, deputy director of the county Department of Recreation, Parks and Facilities, said his office hasn't received complaints about the advertising plans, which were approved by the county commissioners on Jan. 6.

"It will be very low-key and not affect anyone outside the park," he said. "I'd be surprised if we do have any negative reaction."

Pub Date: 2/25/99

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