It will take some advertising sponsorships and fundraising by the athletics department to fund it, but the School Committee on Wednesday, June 20 approved the negotiation of a lease agreement for a new scoreboard for W-H’s Dennis M. O’Brien Field.
A $25,000 donation from the J.J. Frisoli Foundation has provided the down payment for the Daktronics scoreboard, estimated to cost about $100,000, with the remaining amount to be raised by the athletics department. Neither the district nor towns of Whitman and Hanson will be liable for the costs.
Athletics Director Bob Rodgers had initially suggested asking the towns to contribute to the cost as a capital project, but both the School Committee and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ruth Gilbert-Whitner advised against that amid tight budget circumstances.
“I think, overall, this is a fantastic project and I’m 100-percent in support of it,” School Committee member Christopher Howard said. “My only concern is the obligation of the district. I know it’s tough, but we’ve had a lot of financial pressures on us, and where we’re spending money. That’s where I say I’m leaning more toward a pause, do the math, put some money into it, but really try to raise the money to the point where we actually have the money to purchase it.”
Gilbert-Whitner expressed the concern that a funding request to the towns, in addition to all the other capital requests the district has, might not go over well.
“This is nothing [the towns] have ever seen on a capital matrix,” she said. “So, I think I’d be much more comfortable as well with the idea that the athletics department would be responsible.”
With Rodgers’ pledge to raise the additional $75,000, the School Committee unanimously supported the purchase. He had also pointed out that the athletics department transferred $40,000 to the general school budget to help meet district needs for fiscal 2019.
“It will not come out of the school budget at all,” Rodgers said, explain that the purchase order had to be submitted before the end of the week in order to have the scoreboard in place by the fall. “It will be through the fundraising via panels that are on the board and fundraising during the different events.”
The other option was to spend $4,000 to $5,000 to repair the current scoreboard to get it through the next year and make the purchase to have a new scoreboard in place for the following year. Replacing it with the exact same kind of scoreboard as the broken one would cost about $20,000 but would limit the ways it could be used he said.
The Daktronics scoreboard will be purchased from a local company, Scoreboard Enterprises in Mansfield. It is not the same as the one Rodgers described at the June 13 meeting, but has a larger video screen 8.5 feet high by 16 feet wide and has a life-expectancy of about 15 to 20 years with a five-year warranty. The broken board is 13 years old.
It provides six places for sponsoring advertisers that Rodgers expects will bring in “at least $60,000 in revenue.” Additional ads would be sold for display on the video screen.
“I think that, over the long term, we’re going to be able to make this a revenue-generator for us, and maybe bring in some money to the athletics program for uniforms we currently don’t fund,” Rodgers said.
He added that Daktronics screens have been “revenue-makers” at schools across the country.
“This is a real advertising investment for a company,” he said. “They’ll have 1,000 people at a football game on a Friday night that will be going someplace for dinner after the game and [a restaurant] could have a special on that screen that everybody is going to see. They’ll want to advertise.”
The school administration will establish advertising policy and the School Committee will set the rates.
One advertiser has already given verbal commitment to a sponsorship and a few others have expressed interest with some parents a agreeing to help sell ads. Facility Director Ernest Sandland has agreed to have his crews putting the beams up and pulling wires as part of the prep work involved in moving the scoreboard to the right for better visibility.
“I’m willing to commit to do what I have to do to make this work for our kids,” he said.
At the earlier meeting only one bid had been received, with a few more presenting bids since then.
“The one that I was going to go with actually doesn’t play live video unless you go with a huge upgrade to it,” he said. “We have 10 teams alone at W-H that will use this scoreboard in addition to all the youth teams. I think it’s a good investment.”
The screen will also allow the school to conduct programs such as a movie night recently suggested by students, and will permit moving the sound system to that end of the field for better reception and hearing by the crowds.