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New scoreboard not a sure bet

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Before the scoreboard at Whiteland Community High School could be used for the football team’s game against Center Grove High School on Friday, the athletics director had to order a replacement part.

The scoreboard is about a decade old and uses out-of-date screw-in light bulbs. Few businesses make parts for the scoreboards anymore, so when something breaks, athletics director Ken Sears has to place a special order and hope the part arrives before the next game.

What Sears wants is a scoreboard with LED lights, which is the kind of board patrons are likely to see at most other high school football games. He and other school officials want to sell advertising spots on the board to area businesses as a way to make money for the school district.

A new scoreboard was one of many items Clark-Pleasant officials included in a $4 million proposal to upgrade the high school athletics facilities. Those upgrades also include expanding the football stadium’s concession stands and locker rooms, replacing the grass field with artificial turf and creating a permanently paved surface where the marching band can practice.

The expected cost of a new scoreboard is $85,000, though Sears is talking with a marketing company to see if it would consider fronting the cost of the scoreboard in exchange for some of the advertising profits.

Even if the school board approves the athletics upgrades, a new scoreboard isn’t a sure thing. If the marketing company decides not to pay for the board and school officials need to cut costs from the project, a scoreboard could be one of the first items dropped, Superintendent Patrick Spray said.

Clark-Pleasant isn’t the first local school district to consider partnering with a business to upgrade its scoreboard.

Two years ago, Center Grove schools reached a deal with Ohio-based Side Effects Inc. for a videoboard that can broadcast live action and instant replays during football games. Center Grove has a 10-year contract with the company, and the school district didn’t have to pay for the equipment or the cost of installation.

Side Effects Inc. paid about $90,000 in upfront costs for the board and is being reimbursed through advertising revenue, and the company expects to be paid back by 2016 or 2017. After that, the company will split the advertising profits with Center Grove, meaning the school district could receive $17,900 per year that could be used for athletics and extracurricular programs.

Center Grove was one of the first high schools in the state to receive and start using a videoboard. Whiteland doesn’t need or want anything as sophisticated, both Sears and Spray said.

“That may be on somebody’s want list, but it’s definitely not on our needs list,” Spray said.

But Sears does want a board that will show players’ pictures during games and one that can include advertising.

Sears has met with Slam Dunk Sports Marketing, which Whiteland worked with in the past when it was purchasing a scoreboard for basketball. Sometimes the company will help schools purchase scoreboards at a reduced price or for free in exchange for ad dollars.

The school board and about 15 coaches and parents heard school officials’ ideas for the new athletics facilities Tuesday, and the school board could vote on whether to move forward with the project later this month. Board member John Venter questioned whether upgrading the sports facilities is the best use of $4 million, and Spray knows that the school district may need to cut costs from the plan.

Spray wants to collect bids from contractors this fall so that administrators and board members will know the precise costs of all the project’s components. Once those figures are known, school officials can make a more informed decision about what projects they’ll move forward with and whether any components, such as the scoreboard, need to be dropped to save money.

“We’ll continue to hammer that out and get the scope down and figure out what we want to do,” Spray said.

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