Bill eyes advertising, sponsorships for Parks Dept. income

The measure would ease the department’s dependence on the county general fund

If a bill before the County Council becomes law, a War Memorial Stadium scoreboard could contain paid advertisements to raise money for the county Department of Parks and Recreation. The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

Maui County is seeking more income through a bill that would allow businesses and nonprofits to advertise at county parks, sponsor an event or allow an entity to become an exclusive provider for things such as soft drinks at county concessions.

On Tuesday, the County Council’s Budget and Finance Committee reviewed the bill establishing policy for the Department of Parks and Recreation to award and administer concessions and sponsorships. The bill also would establish a fund for income received.

“If the members watch OC-16 high school sports, their areas and fields are all sponsored by businesses,” said committee Chairman Riki Hokama, noting Oceanic Time Warner cable television broadcasts mostly Oahu high school sports. “Concession signs, products signs, airline signs, bank signs. Those entities are paying money to an authority.”

Deputy Parks Director Brianne Savage said, “We are excited to move into the opportunity to identify ways to generate additional revenue in the park system to offset operational costs.”

The measure would ease the department’s dependence on the county general fund, she said.

If and when the bill passes, Savage said the county still must develop administrative rules for internal policies.

The program would launch as a pilot project, she said.

The bill was initially discussed late last year, and a revised version was reviewed Tuesday. Hokama deferred the matter to allow for further revisions. He told committee members that, after the revisions are done, he expects to put the bill up for a vote.

Most of the committee members expressed support for the concept, although some were concerned that some parks facilities would be taken advantage of by corporations and businesses because they could seek to have their names on parks facilities.

“I’m in full support in looking at other avenues in generating income to the county and this is one opportunity. At the same time, I’m still cautious,” said Council Member Alika Atay.

He said he was concerned about sponsors naming facilities just because they were the highest bidder.

Atay echoed Hokama’s statements that, in the past, county facilities were named after those who have contributed to the community, and council members should not lose sight of that.

Hokama said there’s no intent to eliminate the opportunity to recognize noteworthy people. He previously told Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura that this bill would not take away names already tied to county facilities.

The bill also would allow the Parks Department to accept donations up to $5,000. Donations in excess of that amount would need to be approved by the council.

The bill would establish a parks special revolving fund for the income generated by the sponsorships, donations and concessions.

Hokama said he would initially like the council to have oversight on how the income gets spent by the Parks Department.

In the bill, the department would be allowed to spend the money, without further approval, on salaries, equipment and maintenance.

The department also would need to make annual reports to the council on the financial activities, revenue and status of each sponsorship award during the prior year.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.