Monday, March 23, 1998
Readers split over
Lakota's capital idea

BY CLIFF RADEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Be careful when you open your voice mail. Somebody may want to use you as a tackling dummy at the local high school football field.

''You creep. You want schoolkids to suffer.''

- Russ Clinton, West Chester.

''Schools don't care about kids. All they care about is money.''

- Juliet Wilson, Westwood.

Juliet and Russ represent two factions of readers evenly divided over a recent column in which I questioned the good taste of Lakota East and Lakota West high schools. Both are selling the naming rights for their new football stadiums and sports complexes as a way to help pay for new facilities.

No matter the reason, I felt putting the name of a school's stadium up for sale is a bad lesson in selling out.

''You're not a hopeless romantic. Or just hopeless. You're stupid.''

- George Wynn, West Chester.

''It's tempting to sell naming rights and solve your problems. But in matters of education, integrity should always win out.''

- Harvey Robards, Mount Washington.

''Get out your checkbook and write a check for $600,000. Name it after whoever you want.''

- Guy Sherrock, Lebanon.

''It's time we stop the children from begging door-to-door or asking their parents for more money. More school districts - like Lakota - need to become innovative in their financing.''

- Linda Reddington, West Chester.

''You mean there really are LIMITS to how far we stoop?''

- Dan Rathmann, Wyoming.

''What's Lakota going to sell next? The gym, the front doors? Our children's backpacks?

- G.A. Webster, Liberty Township.

Batavia's No. 1

Lakota West thought it might be the first high school in the nation to sell the naming rights of its stadium.

Sorry, Lakota. Batavia High School beat you to it.

''I sold our rights last year,'' said Dennis Wells, Batavia's athletic director. ''We dedicated the new stadium in September. So I guess we qualify for that dubious distinction.''

Wells wasn't apologizing for it. ''I'm very proud we did it,'' he said. ''The money has been nice.''

The rights for Holman Stadium went for $75,000. Buyers were members of the Holman family of car dealers. Length of the contract: ''As long as the stadium stands.''

The Holman family is stocked with Batavia grads. Some were in the school's student body when Wells was in the Class of '68. One Holman, Bari, coaches Batavia's junior high boys track team.

''And no,'' Wells added without prodding, ''he didn't buy his way into the job.''

Wells put the naming rights on the block after becoming athletic director in 1995 and finding that his department was $7,000 in debt. At first, he wanted to sell the rights for $300,000, ''to a big corporation.'' The athletic director had no takers. So he lowered his price, took it to the Holmans and made a deal.

Besides seeing their family name in a sign atop the stadium's ticket booth, the Holmans will be honored by a bronze plaque mounted to the stadium's concession stand. The plaque will read:

''Holman Stadium, home of the Batavia Bulldogs. Dedicated: September 5, 1997. In recognition of the Holman family's long-standing support of Batavia Schools and Batavia athletics.''

Neither the sign nor the plaque will show any insignias of the cars the Holmans sell. So it won't be Holman ''Chevy: Like a Rock'' Stadium or the Holman ''This is not your father's Oldsmobile'' Sports Complex.

''None of that stuff was going to happen,'' Wells said.

The $75,000 will go for four baseball dugouts, a sports equipment storage barn as well as wall mats and banners for the gym.

''The Holmans just told me to spend it where I wanted,'' Wells said. There are no other strings attached to the money.

For me, if you must sell out, this is the right way to do it. Nobody's trying to get me to buy something or shoving their company in my face. This is just a generous family being true to their school.

Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.

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