By Leslie Krowchenko, Times Correspondent
Delco Times, 8-30-2015
NEWTOWN – When Marple Newtown hosts Radnor Sept. 24 in its first Central League match-up of the season, the Tigers’ venue could have a new moniker: Crozer-Keystone Stadium at Marple Newtown.
In a unanimous vote last week, the school board approved a two-year, $18,000 agreement with the health care system for naming rights to the stadium.
While Crozer-Keystone has not yet inked the deal pending legal review, it is expected to be signed within the next week to 10 days, according to the health system’s vice president of public relations and marketing Grant Gegwich.
“We are the first district in the county with this type of deal,” said district communications coordinator Mike Larkin. “We were looking for a stadium partner, and knew what they were willing to do.”
Selling naming rights is nothing new in professional sports. The Wells Fargo Center is the home arena for the Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers, and has donned the names of various financial institutions since it opened in 1996. The Eagles are about to begin their 12th year running through the tunnels of Lincoln Financial Field, and the Phillies have played ball at Citizens Bank Park since April 2004.
The practice is relatively new among high schools. In light of dwindling budgets, districts seeking to repair or replace aging stadiums or gymnasiums have sold the naming rights for the facilities to corporate sponsors finance the renovations.
“In our case, the funds will not be earmarked for a specific purpose,” Larkin said. “As of now, they will go into the general fund.”
The terms of the pending agreement, he added, include the installation of Crozer-Keystone signs at the stadium gates and above the press box, the cost of which will be assumed by the health care system, printing the corporate logo on the front of the custom football tickets, announcements during the game and the chance to provide screenings and information for patrons.
Crozer-Keystone will also have a banner ad on the district website, mnsd.org.
“When the stadium is filled, it is a great atmosphere for the kids,” Larkin said. “When they see the ads from local businesses, it shows there is a lot of support for the program in the community.”
The health care system is one of a number of local businesses partnering with the district. Horizon Services, with a location in Media, has a three-year, $5,000 annual contract for a sign in the gym. Premier Orthopaedics, which has offices in Marple, sponsors a sign beneath the stadium press box as part of a $3,500, two-year deal, and Commercial Utility Consultants, headquartered in West Chester, has its logo on the back of Marple Newtown’s football tickets.
A variety of companies advertise their products on the website, while others contribute food or other items for special events.
Primo Hoagies, with a shop in Newtown Square, is initiating the “Primo Player of the Week” on posters highlighting senior members of the team, cheerleaders and the fall schedule.
“It is a cool thing for the kids,” Larkin said. “It puts them in the spotlight.”
Crozer-Keystone, with hospitals and outpatient centers in Delaware, Chester and Philadelphia counties, will soon be opening within the district’s borders. The health care system is renovating and upgrading the former Pathmark on Lawrence Road into an ambulatory care center, providing urgent care, general imaging and a women’s center, and adding 1,900-square-foot for cancer treatment. The facility is scheduled to begin service in early 2016.
The partnership is expected to extend beyond the playing field to educational connections for students. The district is in discussions regarding internships, sites for senior projects and possible employment for students interested in the health care profession, school board vice president Matt Bilker said.
He added one of the board’s goals is to demonstrate corporate and business support in the classroom, arts and athletics.
“It’s not just about the money — it is a factor, but there are other features,” Bilker said. “When you fill up the stadium, you engage the kids in what is happening on the field to the classroom.”
While Superintendent Carol Cary appreciates Marple Newtown is the innovator in naming rights, it is the educational component that she said truly pleases her.
“As a result of the Crozer-Keystone partnership, we will open unique educational opportunities for our students,” she said. “These may include shadowing, health and fitness programming and educational programming on civic issues dealing with the healthcare issues of our time.”