ONTARIO - City officials have agreed to eliminate 18,000 square feet of parkland at the Ontario Soccer Complex in an effort to help promote it.

At its meeting Tuesday night, the City Council agreed to amend its General Plan to convert open space into industrial use.

The move will allow for a 64-foot-high billboard sign with an electronic LED message display to be built on that site.

The council also approved a 30-year ground lease with General Outdoor Advertising, which will construct and manage the billboard along the 60 Freeway.

The agreement could net the city between $100,000 and $200,000 annually for the first five years and between $230,000 and $312,000 annually after that.

Overall, it is estimated that the 30-year contract with the billboard company will bring in between $6.3 million and $8.7 million to the city's General Fund, said city Planning Director Jerry Blum.

"That's a substantial amount of resources coming back to this community, really at no cost to the city," he said.

Aside from the financial benefits, the new billboard will help the city promote what has become a regional soccer complex.

The 21-acre Ontario Soccer Complex opened in 2009 in the southern part of the city.

The city's recreation staff had identified a need for signage but Ontario just didn't have the funds for it, Blum said.

Even though it can be seen from the 60 Freeway, there were no signs to help motorists know which exit to take, he said.


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The sign will have 14-feet-high by 48-foot-wide electronic LED displays on each side. A soccer ball will be a top the billboard and the Ontario Soccer Complex signage will be below the advertisement displays.

"People who are coming to the soccer complex can see it on the freeway and know to get off on the next exit. It identifies where it is," Blum said.

Ontario would be required to share the costs with the advertising company to replace the open space that will be lost. It must be done before the sign is built.

City Manager Chris Hughes said a parcel well over 18,000 square feet adjacent to the complex has been purchased for landscaping.

The sign company is paying upfront costs and amortizing its costs, Hughes said.

"(Their share) will come off the revenues for the first five years. We still get a revenue every month but they do take off a percentage to pay back the sign and the construction," Blum explained.

As part of the agreement, the city has put some restrictions on what ads can be displayed on the billboard such as no gambling, alcohol or sex-related advertisements. But there are certain exemptions, like if a local casino was going to promote a local event, such as a concert, then it would be permitted, Blum said.

It's the same type of restrictions the city has imposed on its other billboard near L.A./Ontario International Airport, he added.

But the new contact "also gives the city an opportunity for community advertising," Blum said. "We get eight seconds of every minute that we can put a message out there. If we don't put a message out there we can lease it and get half the revenue."

The sign would be in the southeast corner of the soccer complex, along the freeway, and not take away from any of the playing fields, he said.

Because the 60 Freeway is designated a scenic landscaped highway any billboard like the one approved by Ontario is typically not allowed. However, General Outdoor did find an exception to the rule. A billboard is allowed near the storm channel next to the soccer complex.

General Outdoor presented its findings to the city when the company first approached the city about the idea, Blum said.

Once Ontario officials confirmed the exception with the state, they decided to proceed with the proposal.

"We don't like them, honestly," Blum said, referring to billboard signs. "This will be the only one allowed on the 60 Freeway."


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