OHHS starts sponsorship program to help supplement athletic budget

The Oak Harbor High School athletic department has developed a sponsorship program, linking with local businesses, to help supplement the budget of Wildcat sports teams.

Levy dollars and district money support the athletic program, helping pay for coaches’ salaries and transportation, Oak Harbor High School Athletic Director Jerrod Fleury said. Equipment needs are primarily covered by money provided through the school’s Associated Student Body fund.

The sponsorship program will help Oak Harbor athletics be on par in funding with other area schools, he said.

“These sponsorships just provide us with the opportunity to go above and beyond (the locally allocated funds),” Fleury said.

Fleury noted coaches in the past have had to save portions of their budget over the course of several years to build up enough money to purchase large ticket items such as uniforms and expensive pieces of equipment. The Wildcats football team, for example, went 10 years before purchasing a new set of uniforms, Fleury said.

The sponsorship program has enabled Fleury to implement a system of buying new uniforms for teams on a rotating basis, allowing the individual coaches to use their budgets to cover other equipment needs. Five of the school’s 21 teams, including football, received new uniforms last school year. Five different teams are in line to get new uniforms in 2020-21.

The sponsorship program will also help purchase expensive equipment items like pitching matches and blocking sleds.

“We are able to purchase a few things that we never had,” Fleury said. “It gives coaches more flexibility in spending and getting things they couldn’t get in the past. The main thing is the money goes back to the athletes (for items that directly affect them).”

In addition, along with support from the district and levy money, the program has helped with facility upgrades, such as painting the interior of the OHHS gymnasium.

The seeds for the program began two years ago when the Oak Harbor High School athletic department hosted a golf tournament to raise funds for Wildcat sports.

The tournament was sponsored by SaviBank and AESC through Cory Glatch and raised more than $20,000.

The tournament was canceled this year because of the coronavirus, but Fleury hopes for the fundraiser to return in 2021.

Todd Krantz, manager of the Oak Harbor branch of SaviBank, said, “Being an area bank, we wanted to show our support for the community. We are always hoping to do what we can to support the school and athletics, not just in Oak Harbor but throughout the island. We have been in discussions to explore other sponsorship options.”

While the sponsorship program is in its early stages, Oak Harbor did have community partners in the past. Whidbey Island Bank sponsored Wildcat Memorial Stadium the past 10 years.

“They (Whidbey Island Bank) didn’t re-sign up this year, but we are grateful for their sponsorship in the past,” Fleury said.

The Craig McKenzie Team of Keller Williams Western Realty stepped in and took over the stadium sponsorship.

McKenzie said becoming the stadium sponsor was a “no-brainer” because it fit perfectly into their Homes of Heroes program.

Among local heroes are teachers and school staff, he said, and many of the fans who attend games are from other hero groups: personnel from law enforcement, the military and the healthcare field.

“Our goal was to give back to the community $1 million in 10 years,” McKenzie said. “We reached $1,200,000 and some change in four years; we upped the goal to $5 million.”

“I have a great relationship with the folks at the school district,” he added. “They are great people, and I like being behind great people.”

He also noted, “I love football; it is my sport.”

The sponsorship program offers a variety of financial commitments to “meet the different needs of the sponsors,” Fleury said.

The contracts also vary in length of commitment. McKenzie’s contract for the stadium sponsorship, for example, is for three years at $7,000 per year. Sponsors have the first right of refusal when the contracts are up, according to Fleury.

Sylvan Learning Center has also signed on to be a sponsor, Fleury said.

COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in the program, and no high school sports will be played until the new year at the earliest.

Contracts that started this year will be “delayed a year” because of the virus, Fleury said. “Anything this year is a bonus (to the sponsors).”

Despite the interruption caused by the coronavirus, the program has raised about $32,000 so far, Fleury said. That’s about a 50 percent increase in the annual money athletics receives through ASB funds.

Stadium sponsorship requires the largest financial commitment and includes a variety of perks, such as stadium signage and advertising, free game tickets, reserved parking and in-game announcements.

Some of the other sponsorship opportunities are the golf tournament ($5,000), all-sports package ($4,000), two-sport package ($3,000), golf tournament dinner/drink sponsorship ($2,000), golf tournament cart sponsorship ($2,000), single-sport sponsorship ($1,000), golf tournament tee-box sponsorship ($500) and golf tournament green sponsorship ($300).

Each comes with a variety of advertising options and other benefits.

For more information about the sponsorship program, contact Fleury at jfleury@ohsd.net or 360-279-5851.