The decision was a no-brainer.
For this school year, the Brainerd High School athletic department had to make $250,000 in budget reductions. The department proposed $110,000 in reductions, including elimination of many assistant coaching positions and $140,000 in new revenue through fee increases and fundraisers. The school board approved activities director Todd Selk's proposals in May of 2006.
Fundraisers ranged from selling premium seating at Warrior football games to selling cookie dough to selling ticket packages offering discounts at area businesses and restaurants.
Corporate advertising is one of the fundraisers BHS has capitalized on. Since November, fans sitting in the east bleachers at basketball games, wrestling meets and other activities have probably noticed two tables that scroll advertising featuring about 40 area businesses.
The ads of about 40 area businesses are featured on two USA ScoreTables that could generate $90,000 in the next six years for the Brainerd High School athletics department. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
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Here's where the no-brain part enters into the equation. The two USA ScoreTables don't cost the school district a cent.
Rosalie and Chuck Rodgers of Baxter, Minnesota representatives of USA ScoreTables, do all the legwork. Rosalie calls on businesses, signs them to contracts, has the ads designed by a graphic artist and has ads installed on the scrolling panels.
USA ScoreTables has signed a six-year contract with BHS, which receives the tables at no cost as well as owns them. BHS has an opportunity to realize about $45,000, per table, over the life of the contract.
There probably isn't a better deal out there for an athletic department.
"There are no dollars flowing out of the school district at all, only revenue flowing in," Selk said. "We get paid annually, in the spring of the year. We will be getting a check for under $10,000 this spring.
"I'm sure some people thought we bought the tables, but we get the tables and the money.
"I've been thinking the last few years about getting new tables. (The old tables) have been there a long time. In addition to generating new revenue for us we get new tables."
Brainerd is the first school in the state to have tables with revolving, electronic scroll advertising. Since the Rodgers live in the area, they wanted Brainerd to be the first school to have such a revenue stream.
"We wanted to have a story to tell since we live here," Rosalie Rodgers said. "We wanted to make sure it was done right, schooling the maintenance men, letting the community know the money doesn't come out of school budgets for having these tables. I think that's the big question people are asking: 'Where did the school get the money from?'"
USA ScoreTables was founded in Iowa by athletic officials who had seen scroll advertising at major college and pro venues and wondered if it could be helpful, as well as tastefully done, at the high school level.
"I've gone to national athletic directors meetings for years and from Ohio to Pennsylvania to Florida to the West Coast they're all talking about the same thing: 'Where is our next dime coming from? We don't want to cut programs but we have to do something,'" Chuck Rodgers said. "USA ScoreTables was that opportunity."
Other BHS venues are being considered for scroll advertising.
"If there's a table or board with a central location where something like this can be placed, basically we have an opportunity to sell it," Selk said.
"This is a classy way to do it," he added. "It's done in good taste. It's not offensive to anybody. It's not all over the gym. If you've got a spot to put it, it makes sense."
Mike Bialka, sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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