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Official wants city to swing for fence

Tony LaRussa
| Monday, Sept. 13, 2004, 12:00 p.m.

City Councilman Jim Motznik is pitching a proposal for Pittsburgh to raise money by selling advertising on the fences of its 83 multi-use ballfields.

A resolution scheduled to go before council Oct. 20 also includes provisions to allow advertising on other city-owned property such as street furniture, its Web site and on cable broadcasts. The sale of naming rights for property, facilities and city-sponsored events also would be permitted.

"It's too early to know how much money we can raise from doing something like this, but I believe it's worth investigating," said Motznik, who chairs council's Parks and Recreation Committee. "The key here will be that it's something we can do that won't cost the city a penny. And it just might bring in a substantial amount of money."

Motznik said soft drink companies such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi already have expressed interest in the advertising program.

The measure is being reviewed by the city Planning Commission, which will conduct a public hearing on Oct. 12.

Advertising now is prohibited in city-owned ballfields, said Motznik, who once was a foreman in the parks department and volunteered as a youth athletic coach in Brookline for 13 years.

Pursuing additional revenue through advertising and marketing is among the recommendations made by the state-appointed Act 47 recovery team.

One of the first steps in the program would be creation of an Advertising and Marketing Opportunities Task Force, which would include a member of City Council; a representative from the advertising profession; the directors or their designees from the departments of planning, parks and recreation, and general services; and the mayor or his designee.

Suburban youth sports organizations have long recognized the value of selling advertising to help pay for their activities.

"The advertising we sell has been a pretty good fund-raiser for us," said Doug Shramm, who is in charge of the fields for the DeHaven Athletic Association in Shaler.

Shramm said the organization charges advertisers $200 a sign for the first year and $100 a year thereafter. The signs are put up during the organization's yearly baseball tournament at Kiwanis Field on Mt. Royal Boulevard, he said.

The money raised from advertising would go into the city's general fund. Motznik said he would work to have it directed back into the maintenance of the ballfields.

"Whenever money is tight, recreation and public works are the departments that get hit the hardest," he said.

Once the program is up and running, the task force will be responsible for reviewing the suitability of the advertising that is sold, Motznik said.

"Since the fields are used by children, we obviously don't want ads for alcohol, tobacco and other things that are inappropriate," Motznik said.

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