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Wednesday, 24 November 2010 17:07

Toyota Dealership Buys Naming Rights to Lewisville, TX, Public Park Featured

Amateur sports leagues aren’t used to bidding wars to name the usually public facilities in which they play but that may be changing.  A Dallas suburb now has a public park for amateur sports leagues called Toyota of Lewisville Railroad Park—named after a local auto dealership, said the
dealer, Rene Isip. Isip’s dealership has  agreed to pay $1.5 million over 10 years for the name and the right to post logos, signs and banners throughout the 268-acre park. The first signs went up last month.

“I want to create a buzz about the dealership that gives us more name recognition,” Isip said. “The park is a stable ground that anchors us to the city more so than any other dealership.”

The dealer is paying more than originally intended. His  initial offer to the city was $100,000 a year rather than $150,000, but Isip said he is excited by the arrangement. He hasn’t estimated the potential return on his investment.

“I’m looking to be tied into the city of Lewisville,” Isip said.

The fee comes out of the dealership’s advertising budget, leaving $1.2 million for newspaper, radio, TV, Internet and direct-mail purchases.

Isip’s store is in a competitive environment during a slump in new-car sales. Four other Toyota dealerships are within 15 miles of Toyota of Lewisville.

In addition, the store’s new-vehicle sales fell 17 percent in 2009 to 2,036. On top of that, Toyota’s huge safety recalls for unintended acceleration cut deeper into the dealership’s sales early this year, Isip said.

The City Council of Lewisville, a middle-class city of 100,000 about a 20-minute drive north of downtown Dallas, came up with the idea of naming rights to help pay for the city’s new $22 million complex.

The contract also allows the store to have vehicle display areas at the park that can be used for customer test drives. Isip said he also may station employees in the park to suggest car service at the dealership, a mile and a half away.

The complex consists of 16 lighted soccer, baseball and football fields; a skateboard park; three man-made lakes to be stocked for catfish fishing; a 6-1/2-acre dog park; and a 1-1/2-mile walking trail.

Signs with the park and dealership name will appear at the two entrances to the complex, at the baseball and skateboard parks, at the concession stands and in the parking lots.

“These are dignified and attractive signs that give the dealer subtle exposure while not being in your face,” said James Kunke, the town’s community relations director. “He’s been a good partner every step of the way.”

Isip, 51, was born in the Philippines and moved to the Dallas area when he was 9. He built the Toyota store in 2004 after working as general manager of a nearby Honda dealership for 10 years. He also owns a Honda store in Katy, Texas, about 250 miles away.

Last year, the city of Lewisville decided to find a business willing to pay for naming rights at the new park to ease the burden on residents, who were paying a local sales tax to fund the park.

To find a local business, the city paid $230,000 to CSL Marketing Group, which had been hired by the New York Yankees to sell suites at Yankee Stadium.

A growing number of cities are starting to sell naming rights to public parks as the economic slump continues to deplete municipal income, a CSL Marketing group spokesman said.

For example, the Dallas suburb of Plano, where CSL is based, has hired the firm to devise a plan to sell naming rights for the town’s 80 public parks, the spokesman said.

The emerging trend offers new marketing opportunities for dealerships, which have long been interested in buying naming rights for everything from high school football stadiums to radio stations to NASCAR racetracks.

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