New law allows commercial sponsorships at state parks, other public properties
Supporters say funds are needed to maintain public spaces.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Visitors to Kentucky’s state parks could soon be seeing brand names on the property.
A new law allows commercial sponsorships inside state parks. Supporters say it is needed to make sure the parks are well maintained.
Kristina Perry loved E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park growing up, and now brings her two kids to the park playground.
“It's beautiful. It's perfect for them. It's got the big slide for her, the little slide for him,” she said.
But as WDRB has reported, the state's parks are badly in need of maintenance - a quarter-billion dollars worth, according to Don Parkinson, Secretary of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet.
“The state doesn't have the money to fix everything that needs to be done,” Parkinson told WDRB.
That's why the 2017 legislature passed, and Gov. Matt Bevin signed a bill allowing commercial sponsorships on some public properties.
“To bring in new companies and new people to come in and invest in state assets is a great idea,” Parkinson said.
The law does not allow the selling of naming rights to the parks themselves, but playgrounds, shelters, trails, and interstate rest stops are all fair game. Even the State Fair could sell its name.
“There are a lot of companies that want to have their name on a lodge, or a conference room, or whatever it might be,” Parkinson said.
Rep. Mackenzie Cantrell (D-Louisville) opposed the bill.
“I think this bill does open the door for commercialization of our state parks,” she said.
Cantrell said she is concerned sponsorships will take ownership of state parks away from the public. She points to the recent renaming of UK's Commonwealth Stadium to Kroger Field.
“When you look at the name Commonwealth Stadium, it makes you think that was ours. And now it's turned into something that is Kroger's,” Cantrell said.
Parkinson says safeguards are in place.
“We're not going to be renaming state parks, or rivers or anything like that. These are the facilities we've built there,” he said.
Perry said she is willing to give it a try.
“As long as it's helping keep it maintained, and keep it pretty, and keep it safe and clean, I think that's great,” she said.
Parkinson says the cabinet will begin the process of gathering proposals and selling sponsorships later this summer.
Copyright 2017 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.