By Joseph Kolb
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., Oct 7 (Reuters) - A New Mexico public school district is following the lead of professional sports teams and searching for a corporate sponsor for its new stadium to raise funds for dwindling athletic and classroom budgets.
Monica Armenta, spokeswoman for the Albuquerque Public School District, said that, faced with an increasing number of private and charter schools in the region, the public school system needs to be inventive to make up for lost revenue.
She said there has been a drive to market the district, its programs and its facilities, including the year-old $38 million Community Stadium complex on the city's west side, which boasts a 7,000-seat football stadium, a 2,600-seat track and field area, and parking for more than 1,400 cars.
She would not comment on what the district was looking for, but local media have cited an asking price of $1.8 million over the course of a 10-year deal.
"The majority of the money will go to the APS Education Foundation to fill the education gaps in programs for literacy and middle school sports," Armenta said.
The Albuquerque district's drive to find a sponsor is part of a growing trend nationwide as school districts look beyond selling the local sponsorship banners that have been a mainstay of scholastic sports for years.
Brian Siatkowski of Baltimore-based marketing strategists Tebo and Associates said he was hired to spearhead the district's efforts after doing similar work in Florida.
Siatkowski said that Nemours Children's Hospital in Orlando, Florida, signed a five-year sponsorship deal worth $108,000 for the Lake Nona High School football stadium. Baptiste Orthodontics, also of Florida, underwrote the Olympia High School baseball field for $78,000 for five years, he added.
He said he had already received inquiries about Albuquerque's stadium, which he described as "a new shiny toy."
Mark Koski, director of Sports, Events, and Development for the National Federation of State High School Associations, said the corporate sponsorship at the high school level is still in its infancy.
"The Albuquerque Public School District needs to be commended in spearheading this new trend," Koski said. "If this is successful, many schools will follow suit." (Reporting by Joseph Kolb; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Andre Grenon)