Naming Rights For Budget Cuts

In 2006, city officials began working with a local youth-baseball nonprofit group known as Bakersfield Southwest Baseball (BSWB) to relocate its home fields to a 40-acre water-recharge area in a popular part of the city. BSWB–serving almost 1,800 youth annually–was about to lose its lease with Cal State-Bakersfield and needed a new home. The negotiated agreement included assistance from BSWB to build the facility, as well as a 15-year commitment to maintain the facility once it opened. BSWB tapped into its parental resources and was able to construct the restroom/concession building and install 100 percent of the fencing at no cost to the city. The city, in turn, installed the park road, parking lot, irrigation, and signage.

With the 15-year agreement in hand, BSWB contacted various companies to become the major naming sponsor. A three-way agreement was negotiated between BSWB, the city, and Aera Energy for $250,000 to go toward construction costs. (Aera Energy is an oil conglomerate headquartered inBakersfield.) The 15-year agreement runs concurrently with the BSWB lease agreement. This was a win-win for all three parties–BSWB contributed toward its new home fields, the city had a new youth-baseball complex maintained by the primary users, and Aera Energy put its name on a city park. In addition, Aera Energy made a contribution toward a children’s play area to be used by families watching ballgames, as well as for neighborhood children. The 11-field, 40-acre complex opened in April 2009 to rave reviews.

Darren Billesbach, current President of BSWB, says, “Our partnership with the city, their contributions during construction, and the constant support we get from them has enabled BSWB to become the best place to play baseball.” Cris Langston, facility manager with BSWB, adds, “We could not have built a facility that benefits approximately 4,000 players each year without the partnership we had in developingAeraParkinto such a beautiful ballpark. Pony baseball has recognized us as the second-largest Pony organization in the nation. They have never been able to host as many all-star divisional tournaments at one site as they have done in the past two years; and this year we will host district, sectional, and regional tournaments for 5- through 14-year-old players.”

The State Of Success

Building on the successful history of partnerships and naming-rights with public facilities, city staff negotiated a lease agreement with the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO), Region 73 to maintain and operate eight lighted soccer fields in the first phase of a master-planned major sports complex. AYSO, Region 73 used fields at Cal State-Bakersfield for a number of years, but was being displaced due to campus expansion. The city had completed a master plan for a 200-acre complex, commonly referred to asSportsVillage. Once it is built, the complex will contain:

  • 16 soccer fields
  • Four youth-football fields
  • 10 softball diamonds
  • A community center
  • Miles of paved walking paths
  • Numerous picnic/children’s play areas.

Phase I development included the first eight lighted soccer fields with concessions, restrooms, and a parking lot.  AYSO, Region 73 entered into a 5-year agreement to operate and maintain the fields, as well as to complete the interior of the concession stand. To save maintenance costs, the city was able to install a purple pipe system for irrigation of the fields, and use tertiary water from the adjacent water treatment. Park-development funds were used to construct the fields in the first phase of the soccer complex, which opened in July, 2011.

City staff sought naming rights for the complex since its inception, but until there were completed fields, there were no takers. After opening day, State Farm agreed to a 5-year deal for $500,000, to be paid in two equal installments early in 2012 to assist with construction of Phase II.

State Farm Senior Vice President Tom Conley says, “We are very proud to partner with the city … and sponsor the State Farm Sports Village. State Farm is committed to helping meet the needs of our communities, and one of our focus areas is strong neighborhoods. This premiere complex houses the city’s first soccer complex, which will serve thousands of youth inBakersfieldandKernCounty. We are excited about the recreational opportunities the [sports complex] will provide for families in the area.”

Scheduled to open in 2013, Phase II includes four soccer fields and four youth-football fields. The local youth-football organization also has an agreement to maintain and operate the football fields, as well as to contribute toward lights and goals. Once the second phase opens, more than 4,000 children will be participating in active sports, in addition to various tournaments and adult sports leagues with activities year-round.

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