University Recreation Centers Seek Sponsors

In May, the University of Maine, Orono, renamed its four-year-old rec facility the New Balance Student Recreation and Fitness Center after the athletic shoe maker gifted $5 million to the school. Thanks to New Balance, the facility now has an endowment fund of $3 million for its maintenance.

Corporate names are finding their way into other university rec centers (usually on a much smaller scale) as directors pursue sponsorships.

Deb Johnson, associate director for external relations for campus rec at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, says she actively seeks partnerships with businesses that are a good fit for the program. The department’s goal of $131,000 in sponsorship revenues is only a drop in the bucket of its annual budget of $8.4 million, but what matters more is that partnerships add value for students, Johnson says.

For example, campus rec recently partnered with video game maker EA Sports on a Football Challenge event that Johnson says was wildly popular.

With three new recreation facilities opening in the next few years, Johnson says she plans to step up the program’s partnerships to offset added costs.

The $50,000 in sponsorships that campus rec at the University of Illinois, Champaign, attracts is not much, says Erik Riha, lead assistant director of marketing, but it helps assuage the burden to students who, like many others across the country, have faced tuition and fee hikes in recent years.

“We know that student fees probably have a ceiling,” Riha says, “and a lot of schools are getting close to it.”

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