County mulling business sponsorships for parks

County parks may soon be “brought to you by” local businesses and other sponsors thanks to a proposed new county rule.

Hawaii County Department of Parks and Recreation Rule 17 is a newly proposed rule that would, if approved, allow the county to accept contributions of $20,000 or more from sponsors in exchange for sponsorship recognition.

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“This is just another tool that will help us raise money without raising fees,” said Parks and Recreation director Roxcie Waltjen.

According to the proposed rule, all sponsorship agreements must be authorized by the County Council and signed by Mayor Harry Kim. Sponsorship materials are also required to “blend in with the surrounding environment,” will not be permitted to advocate price information or describe the associated products or services and are subject to the full editorial control of the county.

Waltjen said the rule will attract small businesses or private individuals by providing name recognition in exchange for funding equipment or facilities.

As an example, Waltjen said, a business could choose to sponsor a particular hole at the Hilo Municipal Golf Course and, in exchange, have its logo or name displayed on the pennant of that hole.

“But this is something that would work for any facility or equipment,” Waltjen said.

Waltjen said there is no upper limit to sponsorship contributions, but the length of any sponsorship agreement cannot exceed five years.

The proposed rule is extremely similar to a county bill that was passed in 2018 and took effect last March. Both that bill and the rule expressly preclude the possibility of sponsors renaming county facilities.

A public meeting was held to discuss both the proposed rule and amendments to another rule on Wednesday, but no members of the public attended to testify.

The amended rule that was briefly discussed Wednesday entailed a series of fee increases at the Hilo Municipal Golf Course. As outlined in the proposed amendments, beginning Feb. 1, weekday green fees for island residents will increase from $15 to $18, with weekend and holiday green fees for residents increasing from $20 to $25. Fees will increase again on Jan. 1 of 2021 and 2022, ending at $22 residential weekday green fees, and $30 weekend fees.

The cost of Monthly Cards, which are only available to Big Island Residents and entitle the holder to one round of golf, will also increase by $10 over the course of the next two years.

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Waltjen will make a decision on both rules by Jan. 28.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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