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Buda turns to private sector for park project funding

Attempting to cover park-related project costs, Buda is now turning to the private sector for funding.

By giving area businesses the chance to purchase naming rights or sponsorships, the city hopes the subsequent funding can cover budget gaps for projects under Proposition 5 of the 2014 bond.

Buda city leaders in late 2017 adopted a policy that gives flexibility for soliciting corporate naming rights or sponsorships, said Micah Grau, Buda assistant city manager March 6.

As a result, city staff crafted a bid process for those interested in obtaining naming rights.

That process involves going through a committee which will review the bids before making a decision. Grau said the city wants to avoid obtaining bids from companies working with Buda for its bond projects, to avoid a conflict of interest.

Buda also crafted its plan based on the way other area cities obtain corporate sponsorships for their parks or structures.

“We want to make it a fair process and one where we work in the best interest of the community,” Grau said.

Buda began looking at obtaining naming rights after discovering cost shortages in several Proposition 5 projects. Greg Olmer, Buda Parks and Recreation director, said the shortage came as a result of the purchase of Garison Park in 2016. The price for the land ate into the $8 million Proposition 5 budget approved by voters in the 2014 bond.

“We had to take that prime opportunity to get some more open space and parkland. However, that took away from the original bond,” Olmer said. “That’s a good problem to have, but now we have to go through corporate sponsorships to make up money that’s earmarked for Garsion.”

Projects that could be open to sponsorship or naming rights is a proposed amphitheater in city park. Olmer said the city looked at cost estimates for the amphitheater, but realized construction costs would put the city at a deficit.

As a result, city officials and their design team went “back to the drawing board” and scaled down certain parts of the amphitheater.

The Buda City Council Feb. 20 decided to use $500,000 for a basic concrete stage for the amphitheater, leaving an additional $250,000 in need for a roof over the stage, acoustic upgrades, and other added features.

The city is also looking at the possibility of sponsorships and naming right opportunities at its City Park splash pad, improvements to its pavilion, as well as at Buda’s new library located in the city’s new municipal building

Olmer said several groups and entities have expressed interest in corporate sponsorships and have had informal discussions with the city. However, Olmer could not disclose which entities were interested.

While the plan for corporate sponsorships is moving forward, city staff still doesn’t have a firm grasp of how the pricing tiers could work.

Buda City Council member Evan Ture advocated against having a limit to the dollar amount that could be donated toward naming rights. Ture was also in favor of limiting naming rights to facilities or features to a 10-year time frame, as opposed to having them in perpetuity.

“You don’t play if you don’t have a number to start off with,” Ture said. “If they come up with six digits minimum, it’s a good thing. But we shouldn’t be interested in something if it’s under a certain amount.”

Council member Lee Urbanovsky felt breaking down the sponsorship opportunities for a project such as the amphitheater could be beneficial. Urbanovsky said it could help the city make up the $250,000 for amphitheater upgrades at a faster rate, as opposed to waiting for one donor.

Ture, however, said one potential drawback could extend to listing all of the donors in future marketing material.

While no formal timeframe exists for the city to gather sponsorships, Olmer said the city does need to craft its sponsorship process before park projects to go bid in May.

“It will help us plan eventually for funding sources and what scale we want to build those projects out,” Olmer said.

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