SAN LEANDRO -- An advertising firm has offered San Leandro schools at least $10,000 a month for 10 years to build and operate a two-sided electronic billboard at Burrell Field.
Phoenix-based American Outdoor Advertising was the only firm to submit a proposal for the job. School board members voted 6-0 with one absent Tuesday to begin negotiating with the firm, which operates 500 outdoor advertising displays in California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.
A draft of the contract could go to the school board for approval as early as August, district staff estimate. Once the deal is finalized, drivers on nearby Interstate 880 and high school sports fans at the newly renovated 50-year-old Burrell Field and Pacific Sports Complex will view an array of ads, raising funds for the cash-strapped district.
"Now we have a vendor approved for us to enter into negotiations with and hopefully something will emerge that both parties are satisfied with and that will produce some revenue for the district," said retiring Superintendent Cindy Cathey.
In its proposal, American Outdoor Advertising offered the district $10,000 a month, or 33 percent of the gross ad revenue after ad agency commissions, whichever is greater, to build an 80-foot tall billboard with 14 feet by 48 feet of ad space. It also pledged to pay the first 10¿ year's rent, or $1.2 million, up front after all necessary permits are issued.
A vendor that did not submit a proposal told the district permitting could be a problem, saying the proposed location at the field between Teagarden Street and I-880 "is classified as Landscape by Caltrans and does not qualify for a State Permit," board documents state.
Song Chin-Bendib, assistant superintendent of business and operations, said the merit of the claim is still unclear and that it's the duty of the vendor to sort out permitting matters. The project should not cost the district anything beyond the staff time spent negotiating a contract, officials said.
School district staff said the ads selected by the vendor have to be school appropriate and follow board policy, which prohibits, among other things, ads that are libelous, slanderous or obscene, promote tobacco, intoxicants and movies inappropriate for children. Board members in April amended district policy to specifically allow billboard advertisements.
San Leandro's project comes at the same time Alameda County is rolling out a billboard consolidation and relocation program that seeks to get rid of and limit billboards in the county's unincorporated areas. That program is what stopped neighboring San Lorenzo Unified from pursuing billboard revenues.
"If we were able to move forward with the proposals we have received from various sign companies, we could bring in millions of dollars for our students up front. Plus, provide an annual income stream for our students," said retiring San Lorenzo Unified Superintendent Dennis Byas in an email. "Those dollars could be used to support our entire student athletic and music programs districtwide. We could also expand our Physical Education at our elementary schools to support decreases in childhood obesity. As well as, technology advances and upgrades in our classrooms."
San Leandro school officials said it is not yet clear when their billboard will be up and operational at Burrell Field, rebuilt over the last year with more than $16.8 million in bond funds. The field, home to San Leandro High School games, was first built in 1963 as part of Pacific High School. Pacific High graduated its last class in 1983, and the property was sold to developers who built Marina Square Shopping Center.
Ashly McGlone covers San Leandro, San Lorenzo, San Ramon and the Washington Township Health Care District. Contact her at 510-293-2463. Follow her at Twitter.com/AshlyReports.