The Interra Credit Union logo is now on the court at Goshen High School after the gym was renamed Interra Gym last year. Austin Hough | The Goshen News
The Interra Credit Union logo is now on the court at Goshen High School after the gym was renamed Interra Gym last year. Austin Hough | The Goshen News
On Dec. 5, 2021, Goshen High School’s gymnasium officially became Interra Gym.

It became the second facility name that Interra sponsors in Elkhart County, along with its name being on the Northridge High School football field.

The recent addition of naming rights to athletic facilities for high schools in the county is part of a trend across the country for school corporations looking for extra cash. Even locally, Penn High School in Mishawaka has sponsorship for its football field, baseball field and even concession stand inside its gymnasium.

“In general, that’s one of the things we discussed five, 10 years ago: with the way things are going with tax caps and things like that … (naming rights) definitely will be necessary for people to keep their facilities in place,” former Middlebury Schools superintendent Jane Allen said.

MIDDLEBURY’S APPROACH

Allen was the superintendent at Middlebury when they first passed its own naming rights policy in 2017. At the time, Allen noted there was resistance to passing it because of fear that sponsorship from a company could lead to the owners of that company’s kids being given preferential treatment when it came to playing sports. That’s why Allen and the Middlebury school board members at the time did their research before making a decision on passing the policy.

“We talked to a whole bunch of people to figure out how to make it work, and that’s when we put the policy in place,” Allen said

Two years later, the school district announced a project to build a new athletic complex to house the football, baseball and softball fields at. All three were to get new artificial turf playing surfaces, along with seating and locker room upgrades.

Even before the project had officially begun, Interra had inquired about naming rights for the football field, according to Allen. Interra offered $50,000 a year for five years, starting when the facility opened in the fall of 2020. Middlebury accepted the offer, and the new football field has been called Interra Field since.

The baseball and softball fields are also sponsored by D-BAT Elkhart. That naming rights policy is for five years as well, although the terms of those deals are unknown.

Allen, who retired as the Middlebury superintendent last spring, said the money from Interra has gone toward upkeep of the facility.

“What we intended it to go to was help cover the costs of the extra custodial work to take care of the complex, and then also equipment and maintaining it basically,” Allen said.

Middlebury Schools broke ground on the construction of its new facilities in the summer of 2019. In January 2020, Goshen Community Schools passed its own naming rights policy, which stated that, “The school board may grant sponsorships and/or naming rights for district properties, facilities and programs. The acceptance of such agreements must always be consistent with the mission, purposes and goals of GCS. All sponsorships that include naming rights shall be approved by the school board.”

Less than two years later, GHS’s gym is now called Interra Gym. The naming rights for the gym is on a five-year deal as well, beginning with this school year. The financial terms were undisclosed, however, as GCS superintendent Steve Hope said the Goshen Community Schools Foundation — a privately funded institution — closed the deal. The money from the deal will be paid out in equal installments over the next five years.

MORE THAN MIDDLEBURY AND GOSHEN

Two other Elkhart County schools currently building new athletic complexes, Fairfield and Bethany Christian, are exploring adding naming rights to their facilities as well. Fairfield superintendent Randy Zimmerman said there have been discussions about sponsors for their new baseball/softball/tennis facilities, while Bethany Christian’s head of school, Tim Lehman, expressed similar sentiments.

“At Bethany, we are paying attention to the local trends, and we are intrigued to see short-term sponsor partnerships happening,” said Lehman in an email. “Our board is currently reviewing our naming policy with an eye to the future. With construction on Bethany’s new athletic complex scheduled to reach completion in 2022, we are exploring what sponsorship signage might look like on our new track and soccer field. Our previous building projects have often included visible recognition of those who contributed to make them possible and also at times honored beloved community members (such as former coaches Dan Bodiker and Jim Buller). When we open the athletic complex in the fall, we will have a grand reveal.”

In Noble County, West Noble superintendent Galen Mast mentioned that his school district has a policy in place to allow naming rights of facilities to be sold. Now only does that money help out the school, but Mast believes it’s good for businesses who are doing the sponsoring as well.

“This seems to be the growing trend,” Mast said. “Our policy allows for sponsorship and we are open to naming rights as a means to support our school community. And one thing is certain, it matters. Parents and community members appreciate when a business invests in the children of a community and they will support the business in return.”

Randy Miller, the superintendent at Westview in LaGrange County, said the school entered a six-year agreement with Farmers State Bank this year to display their signage around all Westview athletic facilities. Miller said the bank gave a large sum of money upfront, with a smaller amount being paid to the school for the next five years.

The gym at Westview is not named after Farmers State Bank. Instead, the deal states that the bank is the only financial institution that can display its advertising at the school.

“It’s significantly helped out our athletic department budget,” Miller said. “They had approached us, along with approaching several other small area schools that do business within the Farmers State Bank area. So, we’re not the only one with it.”

With seemingly every school in the state looking to bring in extra revenue, looking for sponsorship from local businesses is a logical solution. Miller, as do many local superintendents, see it as a way for athletic departments to completely fund themselves in the future.

“State funding levels for kids is always an issue, right?” Miller said. “This past (two years), the state actually came through and did a really nice bump for schools — that has not always been the case over the last decade. And so right now, school financing maybe isn’t that bad. But if the state would ever underfund state education again, then we might need (naming rights money).

“We would like and prefer that the athletic department fund all of their own things and that it not come out of the operating expenses of Westview. And so, this type of thing helps an athletic department stand on their own, which is good.”
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