It was only a matter of time, I suppose: The D.C. Council is considering legislation that would allow the Department of Parks and Recreation to solicit sponsorships from companies to help supplement their operating budgets. Which means that you could have Nike, Powerbar, or Gatorade advertisements plastering your skating rinks, recreation centers, and swimming pools in the not-too-distant future.
The bill, introduced a couple weeks ago now by Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser, is aimed towards ads “promoting healthy lifestyles” and would specifically prohibit tobacco, alcohol, and political campaign advertisements. It’s part of a larger drive to raise more money for parks facilities; the bill also makes money generated by community benefits agreements attached to planned unit developments available exclusively to DPR, and Bowser introduced another bill today that would make it easier for Friends groups to hold fundraisers on DPR property.
D.C. would be by no means unique in moving towards raising revenues by renting out its public spaces: The practice became more prevalent as the recession took its toll on city budgets around the country. Bowser’s staff doesn’t know at this point doesn’t know how much the new law might generate, but benches have been known to go for $10,000 apiece, and tennis courts for $200,000. Chicago’s Millennium Park is perhaps the prototypical example; it’s collected $220 million from the private sector since opening in 2004.
District land might be particularly attractive because much of the public land in D.C. belongs to the National Park Service, which doesn’t allow visible advertising (though it does accept corporate sponsorships).