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Naming rights may fund North Belle Vernon project

| Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, 8:06 p.m.

Selling the naming rights has proved profitable many major league parks.

But that approach is being taken for organizers of a project to give the Graham Street Park in North Belle Vernon a facelift.

At its most recent meeting, council gave former councilman R.J. Sokol approval to proceed with the project.

Sokol said selling naming rights is first priority for the park project.

“We have had some response,” Sokol said. “This is new territory for me and some of the companies who contacted me. We are in discussion stage now.”

The naming rights would be for 10 years with the company having first choice to maintain naming rights beyond that period. Two billboards would be erected, one facing Interstate 70 and the other facing the park. The signs will have spotlights on them so they can be seen at night.

Employees of the company buying the naming rights will have free access to the park for such events as birthday and graduation parties, cookouts, picnics, weddings and family reunions, as well as company cookouts, parties and picnics.

Fundraising is key for the project, which Sokol estimates will cost $97,800. He noted that 1 mill in North Belle Vernon equals $13,600, making fundraising necessary to pay for the work.

The renovations are needed for the popular borough park, which has fallen into disrepair in recent years. Sokol noted that there is a gap at midcourt of the basketball courts, and the rims have been missing for more than two years.

The fence around the tennis court is falling in and rusting.

With Sokol leading the effort, North Belle Vernon is planning major improvements that will change the face of the park and make it “family-friendly.”

Among the improvements:

• The tennis court will be converted into a small, youth soccer facility.

• Half the basketball court will be eliminated, leaving one rim up and creating a half-court basketball court. The other half of the court would be blacktopped to create a street hockey rink.

Sokol said he is working to equip the soccer and street hockey facilities.

• A French drain system will be installed in the children's play area, where new playground equipment will be erected.

• The chain link fence throughout the park will be repaired. Most of the work will be done in-house, Sokol said. When renovated, the park would be available for “family-friendly” concerts as well as street hockey tournaments. The park would be handicap-accessible, completely lighted and fenced in for security reasons.

A walking path would circle the park, and the pavilion would have electricity.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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