A $392,000 digital screen for the football field will help bring in advertising money for sports programs.
The board will be 45 feet high and rise 17 feet above the sunken field where students play football, soccer, lacrosse and track. The screen will be about 24 by 14 feet and can show play-by-play footage, commercials and other videos, including student-produced segments.
“It really adds to the atmosphere of all the events that are there,” said Debbi Kelly, president of the Laker Athletic Booster Club, the group paying for the board. “It just feels so dynamic, and you just feel so proud.”
Installing the high-tech scoreboard, which will be twice as tall as and much wider than the current model at Prior Lake-Savage’s Dan Patch Stadium, requires the city of Savage to amend its zoning code, since they previously had no scoreboard regulations.
The scoreboard was initially the football team’s idea. “They came to us and said, ‘We need some help here,’ ” she said. “It was a no-brainer.”
The club will take out a loan to pay for it, and the district will lease the space to them for a nominal fee. In five to seven years, the board will be paid off and donated to the district, she said.
The board will bring in between $60,000 and $80,000 a year, obtained through contracts with local sponsors. There are four $10,000 anchor spots for ads alongside the screen and four $6,000 founding spots below that, next to the actual scoreboard. That revenue will go to the booster club to defray the cost of athletics and activities, Kelly said.
All eight spots have already been purchased by local businesses. “We actually had to turn people away,” she said.
The old scoreboard will be moved to the field at Twin Oaks Middle School.
‘A continual issue’
The need for more revenue in high schools sports isn’t new, said Eric Rodine, activities director at Prior Lake High School. “It’s a continual issue with high school sports,” Rodine said. “The cost of running the sports goes up and the school district doesn’t necessarily have the wherewithal” to pay for everything.
Transportation, uniforms and equipment are among the biggest-ticket items, he said.
Without extra revenue, families have to raise funds or pay more in fees, Kelly said.
Rodine said the scoreboard not only benefits the kids financially, but will allow them to learn new skills. Students will operate the scoreboard and the digital display, and student-produced videos will play on screen.
Another benefit is the ability to show videos promoting other sports and activities, including sports with fewer spectators, such as cross country, he said.
Kelly said a giant screen will also be great to have at graduation.
The ethics of advertising
The school board approved installing the scoreboard in early March, and the district is awaiting the city of Savage’s approval of the conditional use permit application April 21, said Terri Dill, Savage’s senior planner.
Among board members, Richard Wolf was the lone dissenting vote.
Wolf believes the ads surrounding the board violate the district’s policy on advertising because students will be “inundated with visual and audio advertising.” The policy says the district should “avoid using students, employees and school patrons as a captive audience” and prohibits “promoting products/private interests,” although it gives the superintendent final say.
The eight main advertisers also will receive additional promotion via banners hung in the school gym, a move that especially irks Wolf.
“It doesn’t add anything to the athletic competition,” he said.
Rodine said he’s aware of Wolf’s concerns, but “It’s kind of the world we live with right now.”
“I understand what he’s saying. It’s like, ‘Have we gone too far?’ ” he asked. “You know what? Maybe we have. But we want to be able to benefit our students as best we can.”
But Kelly said there are ads everywhere already, including at the ice arena where the school’s hockey teams play.
Sara Wintheiser is part owner of Speiker and Company, a Prior Lake tax and insurance company that bought a $10,000 anchor spot on the scoreboard. “It’s just something that’s a perfect fit,” she said.
She doesn’t believe there is an ethical issue with advertising, because teens are unlikely to seek out tax or insurance services. “We’re not trying to get the students’ business,” she said. “We’re just trying to support the community.”
Erin Adler • 952-746-3283