September 28, 2022 • Athletic AdministrationFacilities

A.D.ministration: Upgrading Your Facilities

With many athletic facilities, there comes a time in which they may need a ‘facelift.’ Time, weather, constant or over-use, new building codes, and a host of factors dictate that improvements must or should be made. Recognizing this fact is the easy part.  Almost anyone can make this judgment. The hard part is how do you accomplish this huge task of upgrading a tired venue?

The largest hurdle is finding enough money to accomplish your goal, and this brings you to your logical initial step. First, you have to honestly determine what has to be repaired, improved, expanded or added. To accomplish this task, you may want to visit other schools in your area, talk to trusted colleagues to pick their brains, read professional magazines, and attend professional conferences to gather as much information as you can in an attempt to prepare a game plan.

Once you figured out what has to be repaired, spruced up, or added to your facility, you need to calculate what your project will cost. To do this you will want to consult with architects and construction personnel – experts with the type of facility that you are trying to upgrade. 

facilitiesDepending upon the size of your school district, it may already have this personnel on staff or retainer, and if not, get recommendations and contact professionals in the community. But getting accurate cost estimates or quotes is absolutely necessary to determine if the project is feasible and what the price tag would be.

Now that you know the cost of the project, where do you find the money? Funds for upkeep and minor repairs may typically be part of the normal school district budget. But for larger or more expensive initiatives, money will have to be ‘found’ or raised. In some parts of the country, districts may have to pass a referendum to cover the costs of renovation or building a new facility. But if it is up to your district to raise the money, there are a few ways to accomplish your objective.

  • Capital Campaign —  With this effort, you go and solicit major donations from businesses, organizations, and families. Normally, these individuals and organizations have had an existing relationship with the school and are supportive of your program. With a capital campaign, you would define the purpose of this fundraiser and it would commonly be conducted within a specific time frame. The donors must know that the money is being raised and used for the stated goal. Depending upon the wishes of those who donate, you can either recognize them – with a plaque or something similar or mention them in programs and publications. Some may request to be anonymous. But capital campaigns have long been employed to raise large sums of money for major facility improvements.

  • Engraved Bricks — As the heading implies, a person, organization, or company purchases a brick that is engraved with their name or a brief message. Some companies commercially produce these bricks for schools and organizations, and they are placed in walkways, walls or other similar structures.

  • Grants — There are professional associations, civic organizations and corporations that annually award grants for a wide range of purposes, and some would cover upgrades or the building of facilities. With each source, you would have to submit a proposal for review. These submissions would usually have explicit guidelines to follow and they may even have a standard form that has to be completed. Included in the requirements is a due date for the group to receive your proposal. If you are successful, you will be awarded a specific sum of money that does not have to be repaid, and it must be spent for the listed purpose.

  • Naming Rights — While this approach is normally associated with colleges, it has moved down to the high school level and it is one that you should consider. To increase your effectiveness and to raise more money, also think about naming parts or aspects of a facility. For example, you can name the stadium and also the field; you can do the same for the gymnasium and its floor. In addition, you would want to consider all of your facilities such as your dedicated wrestling room, natatorium, the press box at a venue, and athletic training facilities. Not only can this approach increase the amount that you can potentially earn, but a business or family may also be more inclined to participate due to their interest or connection to a specific part of a facility.

Naming rights agreements would typically involve a specific length of time. Upon the conclusion of the agreement, the current sponsoring company or family would usually have the right to renew the contract. It would be typical that the naming rights fee would also be adjusted and increased, and the new length of the contract could also be negotiated.

  • Sponsorships — This step has commonly been done with scoreboards, sound systems, and other specific equipment that is needed in an athletic facility. Normally, the sponsorship includes signage attached to the actual piece of equipment as well as additional signs and advertisements in not only the venue but also in programs, on your website, and in other publications.
  • Nickel and Dime Approach — Since new or refurbished facilities obviously cost a great deal, you may also even have to consider ‘small’ efforts to increase revenue to help offset the money spent. These initiatives could include slightly raising ticket prices, increasing the cost of food items at the refreshment stand, and considering selling team gear – t-shirts, caps, sweatshirts – during contests. Every little bit helps and you may have to take these steps on a long-term basis to help close the financial gap.
  • Hosting Additional Events — Obviously, if you can host a few more home games, this should increase your gate receipts and income from refreshment stand sales. This can be done if you can entice a few more schools to play their non-league contests in your venues, and to host a preseason or holiday tournament, and to possibly host girls’ and boys’ double-header games for sports such as soccer and basketball. And you should also think outside the box, and look to host band competitions, possibly a concert, and any other reasonable event that will fill your venue.

If it is impossible to raise the additional money for your project or if the cost is prohibitive, there is another alternative even if it isn’t as appealing. You can attempt to work out a deal to use a community venue, a local community college, or a private facility to fill your void. This approach will save money, but you will also give up perhaps a little flexibility of scheduling and control. But if raising the necessary money to cover the cost of refurbishing a venue is out of the question, using other venues may be a workable alternative.

Make no mistake that upgrading your facilities can represent a major undertaking. With proper planning, considering the steps to be taken and some possible alternatives, however, it can be done. Upon completion, you will have provided your student-athletes with a safe and functional venue for practice sessions and games.