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Maintaining Your Appeal

Mike Lafferty, CAA, has been the athletic director at Dulaney High School (Md.) for the last nine years and has been an educator since 1974. He teaches numerous leadership training program courses (LTC) at the national and state levels, including the NIAAA's LTC 516, "Administration of Physical Plant Assets and Facilities Management," which covers the topics of facility planning, funding, develop design, and needs assessment.

During the NIAAA's December 2006 National Conference, Lafferty presented "Curb Appeal: Facility First Impressions," which discussed the impacts a facility's appearance has on the development and success of sports programs and student-athlete performances. He has first-hand experience on this subject, having coached football, wrestling, soccer, and lacrosse, serving as a physical education department chair, and working with booster clubs on major capital campaigns, such as his current project of overseeing a complete stadium-improvement.

Much of the funding for Lafferty's projects have come from booster clubs, who often rely on business donations and corporate sponsors to meet their fundraising goals. Not only can aesthetically appealing facilities enhance an athletic department's functionality to the community, notes Lafferty, but also greatly increase a sports program's fundraising opportunities.

"Sponsors and local businesses want to link up with us (Dulaney) when they see a first class program," he says. "They want to be a part of what we are trying to do and represent. Our local school district knows that we will serve as good hosts for play-off games, and that we will go the extra steps to portray a positive, friendly, and welcoming environment."

Lafferty talks with about this, and later, offers tips on what sports booster clubs can do to further enhance an athletic facility's curb appeal. (FFS): What is curb appeal?
Mike Lafferty (ML): Curb appeal is that first impression everyone gets when they experience your school, facility, or event for the first time. It is everything that stands out that we wish people to see, and it is everything that stands out that we don't realize people are seeing. It is all of the messages that are being conveyed about your program, school, and the community, that visitors will leave with. It includes your parking lot, landscaping, signage, traffic control, lighting, stadium entrance, cleanliness, field appearance, and much more.

How does curb appeal enhance a sports program's level of play?
ML: A positive curb appeal will have an impact on your competition: They will notice your facilities and the manner in which you do business. Opponents will have more respect for their competition when they see that the community, the school, and everyone around are making a statement about the school. Simply wearing nice uniforms is not going to impress a visiting opponent when they see a run-down or trashy facility.

FFS: What roles do the community and student-athletes have in determining a sports facility's curb appeal?
ML: The community, students, administration, sports boosters, coaches, and parents all play a role in the development of positive curb appeal. They all must buy into the purpose through a sense of pride in the school, community, and the program. If they are not on the same page with you, you will never achieve your goals. The school district administration probably will not help you with your efforts. They will notice what you do and don't do because visitors will talk about what their experience was.

FFS: What should booster club members understand about a facility's curb appeal?
ML: It is very important for developing a following. Curb appeal is never finished. The efforts and the mindset must always be challenged to do more. Once one project geared toward improvement is completed, you need to move on to other ideas for enhancing the program and facilities.

FFS: If it's determined that renovation is necessary to improve an athletic facility or there is a need to build a new facility, what should athletic administrators understand and consider during the designing/planning phases?
ML: It is imperative to develop a plan with all end users in mind. Your planning and design committee should include representatives from many groups. You will need to gain the backing and support of the community, the school district, and local government officials. This is a long drawn out process that will require patience and perseverance. If you must fundraise to get the project going, plan it out and begin as soon as possible. There will be tremendous costs involved before any ground is broken or walls are moved.

FFS: How should a booster club approach an athletic administrator about a major capital proposal?
ML: Sports Boosters can be shortsighted, so make sure that they look at the big picture and at how many groups may benefit from this project. The more opportunities for participation and use, along with educational growth, that you can show will certainly make the project easier to promote. It is also important for groups to understand that projects to not happen quickly. There will be meetings concerning planning and finances to discuss. Finding individuals to spearhead or chair the project will be crucial. Many are willing to help and follow, yet few are willing to invest the time necessary to lead.

For more information on Mike Lafferty's NIAAA presentation on "Curb Appeal" or for ideas on how to develop or enhance your facility's current aesthetics, you may contact Lafferty at: is brought to you by a recognized and established name in the school athletics arena, MomentumMedia—publisher of Athletic Management, Coaching Management and Training & Conditioning magazines.