Renovating the Replacements
The Barrington United School District, located 35 miles northwest of Chicago, has grown substantially over the last decade. The school district is composed of more than 9,000 students in 12 schools throughout four counties. With the expansion in enrollment, so too has the number of students, especially girls, participating in sports. Unfortunately, the high school's stadium, which was built in the 1970s, couldn't keep up with the population's needs. All that changed, however, in late 2006 when voters passed a school referendum for a $4.4 million stadium renovation project.
by Danielle Catalano
"The stadium's bleachers weren't up to code, but were allowed to be grandfathered in, and the track was rutted, causing the girls' and boys' teams to play home meets at neighboring school districts," says Mary Kamps, one of the five founding members of the Friends of the Stadium, which is overseeing the renovation project. "So, safety was the number-one issue. Other concerns were that the stadium wasn't ADA-compliant nor equipped to handle the transition of girls' club sports, like girls' lacrosse and soccer, into full-fledged interscholastic sports."
The new stadium is called the Barrington Community Stadium and ground was broken in December 2007. It is scheduled to open in August 2008with new names for the stadium, track, and fieldduring a ribbon-cutting ceremony preceding the Broncos' first home football game of the season. The facility will be multi-sport, hosting football games, boys' and girls' lacrosse, soccer, and track events, as well as used for team practices, band competitions, and physical education classes. It will feature a synthetic athletic turf encircled by an eight-lane rubber track, new home-side 2,500-seat grandstand, permanent restrooms, and an upgraded LED scoreboard.
The turf, scoreboard, and restrooms are being provided through a $1.1 million fundraising effort by the Friends of the Stadium, a subcommittee of the 501(c)3 Horseshoe Club, a non-profit athletic booster club serving the Barrington High School athletic department. The subcommittee is halfway to its goal and is right on target with its goals.
GETTING THE VOTE
The renovation project almost didn't happen. According to Kamps, the school board tried numerous times to get the stadium project passed, but always failed because of its expense. "A lot of the community members were concerned about increases in taxes, so this time around, the school board presented a proposal with just the basics: replacing the footprint of the existing field and bringing the bleachers up to ADA code."
Questions lingered about the basics being enough. The field was natural grass, and several athletes had suffered severe knee and ankle injuries during competition. Also, many in the community wanted the facility to be able to generate revenue for the school district, Kamps says, and some weren't sure if simply replacing the old with the new would necessitate that option.
"Since our school district is so large70-plus-square mileswe really wanted the whole community to benefit from this project," Kamps says. "So, the school board said if the proposal passed, it would support us getting the extra stuff. So the Horseshoe Club, in turn, supported the proposal."
Friends of the Stadium formed to help push the proposal. Soon, the group found itself amid a major challenge, as the school board had another construction project on the ballot: an early education center. "The community could vote 'Yes' for both proposals, or 'No'," explains Kamps. "We hated thinking community members felt like they had to choose between the two to keep costs down, and who wants to say 'No' to education? So, we communicated very hard that the stadium project would be money well spent."
The committee campaigned its message several ways:
- Making the cause more appealing to the community's conscience by making sure voters understood how the stadium would meet the districts' needs, not just the varsity sports' needs
- Placing signage all over the school district, noting the date of the referendum, and
- Keeping the message simple
The stadium proposal passed by 100 votes, while the education center proposal failed. As a result, there was some tension in the Barrington community. "When you put yourself in front of the public, you have to expect these emotions," says Kamps. "Instead of getting upset, we made it a point to show the community we meant what we were pushing."
In late February 2007, the school board officially recognized the Friends of the Stadium, and in early March, the five-member subcommittee developed its fundraising plan. "We have been successful because we've been realistic in our goals," Kamps says. "We've planned the fundraising in three phases, and now we're almost at Phase Three, which is right where we want to be."
THREE PHASES TO SUCCESS
Kamps says the phases are based on simple mathematics. "Half from naming rights, a quarter from corporate sponsorships, and a quarter from the community," she says. The group divvied its fundraising this way to meet the school board's deadline of raising $400,000 by January 1, 2008, which at the time was half of the estimated renovation costs.
"With the ground breaking scheduled for December, the board needed to know we could be relied upon to provide money for the turf," Kamps says. The Friends of the Stadium met the administrators' deadline by the school board's December meeting.
Below are examples of the three phases the Friends of the Stadium implemented:
Naming Rights. The first phase involved selling the naming rights of the stadium, field, and track, with final licensing agreements approved by the school board. Each license lasts 10 years and includes donor recognition in the form of engraved wall plaques on the stadium's entrance concourse and engraved bricks in the stadium's paved courtyard.
"We focused on businesses and individuals with strong roots to the Barrington community," Kamps says. "This narrowed our search a little, but what also helped was knowing what the school board wouldn't accept as sponsorship, such as anything related to alcohol."
The field will be named after a local entrepreneur, while the stadium will be honored by the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and the track will be named after a local car dealership.
Corporate Sponsors. The second phase includes five-year scoreboard signage rights and gift-in-kind services, valued between $5,000 and $50,000. Some of the gift-in-kind services include lighting fixtures, fencing, press box furnishings, and electrical supplies and material. Sponsors also receive recognition with wall plaques and engraved bricks.
Community Donors. The final phase is entirely community-oriented, says Kamps, focusing on families and individual community members who want to contribute but may not be able to at the other donation levels. The group is selling two sizes of engraved bricks to complete the courtyard, as well as engraved wall plaques for the concourse. The value of these donations starts at $250.
"This is the toughest phase because the number of donations needed to reach the goal of a quarter of the renovation cost is obviously greater," Kamps says. "But, again, being realistic, we gave ourselves a much longer timeframe to complete this phase."
The subcommittee plans to have the fundraising completed by the first week of August, after which, the group will disband. Kamps says the group has been successful thus far for several reasons.
"Our group is composed of practical people," she says. "No one has overzealous goals and no one is afraid to roll up his or her sleeves to get it done. Also, because we've talked about this for so long and knew what the school board expected of usand knew we had their full cooperationplanning our fundraising proposal was easy. It also helped that our deadlines were short, because there was no time for anything else than meeting those deadlines."
For more information about the Barrington Community Stadium, visit: www.horseshoeclub.org.