The city was considering funding opportunities to make improvements to Island Crest Park ballfields, including field banner advertising (rendering pictured). Photo courtesy of the city of Mercer Island

City identifies alternative funding opportunities in Island Crest Park

At its Feb. 21 meeting, the Mercer Island City Council heard about options for enhanced funding opportunities to make improvements to the Island Crest Park ballfields, including field banner advertising and field naming rights programs.

Parks and Recreation Director Bruce Fletcher said that Island Crest is “a wonderful park used by thousands of Islanders, but money is tight.”

The city is working with several field user groups during an ongoing community fundraiser campaign to secure private funding for the south synthetic field turf and ball field light replacement projects, which will cost the community $150,000.

The city has raised $73,000 so far, and secured a $500,000 grant through the Recreation and Conservation Office.

Alternative funding could be used for other ballpark improvements, “including new backstops, increased height of foul line fences, new synthetic turf north outfield, grandstand replacement, upgrades to the concession stand, and parking lot and restroom improvements,” according to the council’s agenda bill.

The Island Crest Park ballfield outfield fence would serve as the structure to support up to 30 4-by-8-foot vinyl advertising banners, sold for $1,000 per year.

Fletcher said that any advertisements would have to be “family friendly,” with no references to tobacco or alcohol, or religious or political messaging. They would stay up from March to October, and would be seen by participants in football, soccer, senior softball, ultimate Frisbee and other sports, along with dog walkers and other park goers.

Most of the council members said they were more comfortable with the naming rights idea than the advertising.

Deputy Mayor Debbie Bertlin said she was open to being convinced on the idea if day-to-day park users were given an opportunity to weigh in, as Island Crest is one of the “most iconic and well used” parks in the city.

Councilmember Wendy Weiker supported the proposal, noting that the city could use the revenue, and that outfield advertising fits with the “spirit of baseball.” Councilmember Dan Grausz said he likes that Islanders “don’t commercialize everything” in their community, but supported the naming rights program.

Island Crest has a grandstand for two sports fields (north and south). The naming rights for each field could be sold for $15,000 per year with a 10-year minimum, with a 3-by-12-foot aluminum sign being placed at the top of the home plate backstop.

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Correction: A previous version of this story said the meeting took place on Feb. 12.