Kelowna council approves plan to sell sponsorships of city facilities

The policy, approved by council Monday, could bring in as much as $800,000 per year in revenue

You won’t likely see a flashing corporate sign on the roof of Kelowna city hall, but the city is planning a new policy to deal with advertising and sponsorships of city programs and facilities.

Development of the policy, approved by council Monday, could bring in as much as $800,000 per year in revenue, city communications supervisor Jodie Foster told council. That would be on top of the $750,000 the city already takes in from advertising at the airport, through transit system advertising on buses and at bus shelters and from sponsorships of two major city events—the annual civic awards and the annual Bike To Work Week, as well a number of smaller deals.

According to the new plan, only city-owned and -operated facilities would be included. That means facilities such as the Rotary Centre for the Arts—owned by the city but run by a local non-profit group — would be excluded, as would public-private partnership facilities like the Capital News Centre.

But other city facilities, like the H2O Aquatic Centre, Kelowna Community Theatre, Parkinson Recreation Centre and Rutland Arenas would be included.

While city council liked what it heard Monday, there was some concern expressed about the need to hire three new city staff to run the program. One would be hired at the start, with two more added as the program reached specific, pre-determined revenue targets.

Coun. Tracy Gray said she was concerned about hiring a new employee for the five-year pilot project with no revenue expected to be generated by it next year.

Despite that, she said it makes sense for the city to move in the direction that the policy would take, but she would like to see it grow “organically.”

Foster said the request for the first new staffer, to be made in next month’s budget meeting, would be for just the second half of 2017, as the program likely won’t get off the ground until at least next summer.

The cost of the new staffer and operation of the program has been estimated at around $90,000, but would be partially offset by money the city already has.

Foster said the key to success of the new policy would be finding corporate sponsors that match up well with the people who use the facilities the companies want to sponsor. She added entire buildings would not necessarily have to be sponsored, facilities within a building could just be sponsored.

“We would need to strike a balance,” she said.

Foster said the program would be expected to raise $150,000 by year two and at that point a second staffer would be hired—pending council budget approval at that time. When the program reaches $500,000 in revenue by year five, a third new staffer would be hired.

The policy will leave the handling of naming contracts under $500,000 to city staff, while contracts over $500,000 would require city council approval.

The new policy would be the first overarching sponsorship and advertising policy for the city, and would follow the lead of large and small municipalities across the country.

Mayor Colin Basran threw his support behind the program, noting the city is already doing it piecemeal but having an overall policy would be good.

But he joked, the public should not expect to see a screen behind his chair in council chambers running advertisements during council meetings.