Sponsor signs may be headed for city parks

Posted: Thursday, October 14, 2010

Youth sports leagues in Juneau may be able to promote their sponsors in city parks, if the city takes up a recommendation from the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee.

The committee was asked to weigh in on an issue that would allow youth sports teams - and any group using city parks - to put up donor support signs for the duration of their season. An ordinance amendment to allow small donor signs to be attached to fencing or other permanent structures is proposed.

The committee supported the ordinance change 7-1 with committee member Chris Mertl dissenting, and Melissa Goldstein absent.

Some sports fields already have some form of signage up, the legality of which was questioned by the commission, but it's generally not allowed.

Thunder Mountain High School has its own field and therefore can put up donor signs generally how it sees fit. Juneau-Douglas High School doesn't have that luxury as it uses city-owned Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.

Robyn Holloway, president of the Crimson Bear football team, said they put up signs during events and take them down immediately after, however they would like to acknowledge supporters of the team for the whole season. She said each player needs $1,500 to play, and typically the team gets 6-8 corporate sponsors to limit costs for individual players.

"Our travel budget alone was $120,000," Holloway said. "This is, as you can imagine, a lot of work for 50 football players to go out and try and raise this money."

Some corporate sponsors have only been able to support one team this year and Holloway is often asked if they can sell banners like Thunder Mountain does.

John Matheson, president of the Juneau Youth Football League, also supported the ordinance change. His organization traditionally uses fabric banners that are hung for the duration of a single event.

He said he feels it's important to allow donor sponsor signs to remain up. Matheson gave the example of the Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park's scoreboard. He said the board was able to be purchased and installed for $5,000 of local funds. The rest of the cost came from donations. Thunder Mountain's cost $50,000, he said.

Matheson was also in favor of the idea of keeping the signs to the same colors, graphics and fonts to keep with the memorial nature of the park - even though many donors have expressed interest in the ability to use their own logos and colors.

He believes the ordinance change is essential to keep youth sports active in Juneau.

Nancy and John Eiler, who live next the Adair-Kennedy are concerned about the sheer number of signs that could pop up and stick out poorly in the park.

She said the tiles at the library with donor names, bricks at the arboretum and fence posts elsewhere and the even the new scoreboard were all nicely done and planned to fit in with the surroundings. Nancy feels the plastic signs will not fit in and detract from the nature that other park users value. She asked the committee to rethink how they want their parks to look. John echoed similar concerns and said the idea that the signs only remain up for the sport season was still an issue because of all the different sports seasons and the fact that most people use the parks during spring and summer athletics. The couple looked up how many sponsors both football teams have, and they said it totals about 80. They said they felt 80 signs would overwhelm the scenery.

Committee member Dixie Hood suggested it support a resolution to test the proposed ordinance for a year and review it for a vote after a year.

Board chairman Jeff Wilson felt a year was too little time, because the entities need more time to work out how they want it to function.

Member Ray Howard made a motion to support the ordinance for three years with a review at the end.

Mertl was opposed to the ordinance because he said he feels it will open up the city parks for advertising for political candidates and issues like abortion.

"The thing that's hanging me up is the long-term exposure of these signs," he said. "...Once we open up the floodgates, everyone can do this. We're already over inundated with commercialism, advertising. I think a lot of people live in Juneau because of its beauty."

The recommendation will go to the planning commission.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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