The lights are on at George Mason High School’s athletic fields, but the loans taken to light the school’s baseball and softball fields must be repaid. Through sponsorships, including in large part offering the naming rights to the school’s stadium, the Mason Athletic Boosters hope to raise the funds to pay back those loans.
Last winter, eight light poles around the Mason baseball field and six around the softball field were installed to light the fields in the evenings and thus expand their use, both to student athletes and the community. The project cost about $359,000. $110,000 in Capital Improvements Program funds from the City of Falls Church went toward that cost. After fundraising, the project originally took on about $140,000 in low-interest loans to bridge the gap. To date, $110,000 has been collected through a grassroots fundraising effort, and about $20,000 has been paid back on the initial loans.
“The boosters can pay off the remainder of the loans, and businesses can help support Mason athletics and get a lot of visibility since our facilities are used widely by the community and the schools,” said Craig Cheney, an athletic booster and president of the boosters during the field lighting project.
There was a similar fundraising need when the stadium was first named. A deal for stadium naming rights arranged in the winter of 2004 by Mason athlete and alumnus Jacques Joseph Moore III, then vice president of Moore Cadillac, helped meet funding needs for lights at the school’s stadium. For seven years, the athletic facility was known as the Moore Cadillac Stadium but, according to Athletic Director Tom Horn, the deal was not renewed after that period and the stadium has been without a name since the beginning of the 2012 school year.
At the beginning of the year, the boosters partnered with Sports Image, a sports marketing company based in Midlothian, to find parties interested in naming rights and sponsorships. Proposals may vary in scope, length of time, and amount of money offered, Horn said.
Tom Carmichael, owner of Sports Image, said that proposals could include a deal for stadium naming rights, as well as sponsorships for gymnasium banners and scoreboard signs.
Horn said he doesn’t know how much money a naming rights deal could yield, but he anticipates that it will bring in more money than the previous arrangement because growth in the community, and in the school and its athletic program, would make the deal more valuable.
Already private parties have expressed interest in sponsorships, Horn said, but a final arrangement has yet to be reached. The athletic boosters will review proposals as they are submitted so that an offer can be presented to the School Board for approval.
“There’s a great community improvement that happened because of private funding, and we want to make sure that idea continues,” Horn said.