The Marblehead All Sports Foundation received permission from the School Committee this week to begin phase two of the design work on the new artificial turf field at Piper Field.
The foundation has raised the funds, about $50,000, that are being paid to Huntress Associates, an Andover sports field and landscape architectural firm, to design the new field.
"So you are asking us to allow you to spend your own money," said committee member Richard Nohelty.
"That's about right," said foundation board member Steve Maxwell.
The foundation also got the School Committee's tentative blessing to begin asking local banks and businesses if they would be willing to commit to long-term agreements to fund the field construction in exchange for naming rights and advertising on the scoreboard and banners at the field.
"We believe strongly that this is where we will get a sizable portion of the money," Maxwell said.
He said the foundation has already raised about one third of the funds needed. And from preliminary conversations, the foundation is confident it will soon have tentative agreements with several local financial institutions and companies for sponsorships. Those agreements must be approved by the School Committee.
The foundation is attempting to raise $1.3 million to replace the current turf field with an artificial turf field, which would greatly expand the time football, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey teams could use the field.
The private fundraising effort began after the town rejected an override in 2010 to raise public funds to build the field.
In the outline Maxwell presented the committee, one sponsor would get its name on the new 20-foot, by 8-foot scoreboard, plus six electronic announcements and two announcements by the public address announcer during games for $125,000 each year for the next 10 years.
For $50,000 each year for five years, eight companies would receive a 10-foot by 30-foot Legacy Turf Field logo, six electronic messages and two public address announcements during the games.
Two companies can sponsor the end zones with 200-foot windscreens along the end zone fence. For $50,000 each for five years, these sponsors would also get six electronic messages on the scoreboard and two announcements over the public address system each game.
And one company can sponsor the backdrop for the visitors stands. For $25,000 for five years, that sponsor would get a 100-foot windscreen, three electronic scoreboard messages and one public address announcement per game.
"We have no desire to create a field full of signs," Maxwell said.
In addition, there would be an opportunity for an even larger contribution to have the field named for a sponsoring company. But Maxwell said the name Piper Field would always be retained. So it might become "XYZ Bank Stadium at Piper Field," he said.
School Committee members had a few concerns, although they strongly supported the concept of the sponsorship plan.
No Soft or Energy Drink Sponsors
Several members noted that some companies would be excluded, such as soft drink and energy drink companies as well as sellers of alcohol, tobacco and firearms. They also objected to the foundation's plans to give season passes to the sponsors.
Some board members questioned plans to allow the sponsoring businesses to hand out coupons and promotional giveaways at games.
Superintendent Dr. Greg Maass volunteered to work with the foundation to help determine what companies would be appropriate as sponsors.
Maass suggested that the foundation consider selling pieces of the natural field turf as souvenirs in a box with a brass plaque on each. Maxwell said he thought that would be a good way to raise money.
Maxwell said the test boring on the current field found no surprises. The field slopes naturally. Contrary to the fears about the current field, the substructure has not dropped, he said.
"It is nice to be wrong," he said.
The Foundation is a nonprofit organization. Tax-deductible contributions can be sent to the Marblehead All Sports Foundation, Box 240, Marblehead, MA 01945 or at the group's Web site, www.marbleheadallsports.com.