LEWISTON — The name of Franklin Pasture, which is the athletic fields at Lewiston High School, may be for sale: $750,000.
So could the name of a new field hockey and lacrosse field, $500,000; the name of the track, $250,000; the name of the tennis courts or baseball fields, $250,000 each; the main concession building, $50,000; even the name of the scoreboard and sound system, $25,000.
And for $500, your name could go on a brick.
Selling the rights to names is how a group of local sports supporters, educators, city leaders and business people propose to build a new $3.8 million athletic complex, without costs to taxpayers.
The only field where the name would not be for sale is the football field, which will remain the Don Roux field, said Lewiston High School Athletic Director Jason Fuller, who also is a Franklin Pasture trustee.
On Monday Fuller and other trustees will ask the Lewiston School Committee for permission to raise money by selling the rights to the names of fields. On Tuesday permission will be asked from the Lewiston City Council.
If they raise between $3.8 to $5 million, the trustees would modernize or build five new athletic fields, eight tennis courts, a new concession building and a sound system and scoreboard, Fuller said. The football field and the soccer and lacrosse fields would have artificial turf, which is expensive but more durable than grass, allowing the fields to be used more often.
The idea is comparable to how the Central Maine Youth Center became the Androscoggin Bank Colisee; Androscoggin Bank bought the rights to the ice arena's name.
“We are going to name some things if the donation is appropriate. We hope to generate some interest,” Fuller said. A new athletic complex would not only benefit high school athletes but community sports and adult athletes, he said.
“We're not asking to increase the mill rate to fund this,” he said. “I may be a dreamer, but I think we can do it.”
If approved, the corporate underwriting program could mean an L.L. Bean Athletic Complex next to Lewiston High School, if L.L. Bean were interested, or the T.D. Bank tennis courts, if that bank were interested, or maybe a Chickadee concession building or a Marden's baseball field, if the Chickadee Restaurant or Marden's were interested.
What's not clear is, would fields named after White Rock or Federal Distributors, which make or sell alcohol, be allowed? The names of fields or buildings would have to follow school board or City Council policy, said Lewiston School Superintendent Bill Webster, adding that kind of question would be discussed Monday night.
“I don't see the board getting into the specifics of it, rather approving it in concept subject to board policies,” Webster said. Franklin Pasture is city property, not school property.
Fuller emphasized no names have been sold; the trustees first need permission to move forward. “We want to go ask and see what we can raise,” Fuller said.
If companies or individuals donate money, “we're going to recognize and thank them. We want to make sure the public knows we appreciate it,” Fuller said. “I don't care of it's $50, it's $50 more that will help us. If you're a true fan of Lewiston athletics, we thank you.”
The plan has opposition.
“I'm strongly opposed to it,” said Lewiston School Committee Member Jim Handy, who said he wants to see a continued separation of corporate interest and public schools.
Selling names “may be limited to athletic fields at this point, but once that door is open, pretty much Lewiston schools can be bought. It puts us for sale to the highest bidder,” Handy said.
He said he's concerned private groups would make decisions on what advertising is appropriate. “Now we have limited policies.” Scoreboard advertising must be healthy products, such as water, not soda.
“This can go beyond soda and water. It could be a casino, it could be a bank, it could be the next person advertising medical marijuana,” Handy said.
If commercial names were allowed all over the athletic complex, “what's going to be next? Teams wearing patches of various products?” Handy said.
The Lewiston School Committee meets at 6:45 p.m. at the Dingley Building on Oak Street. The vote on the athletic complex fundraising is one of the first items on the agenda.