Saanich’s Commonwealth Place Pool is among local recreation facilities where a new policy paves the path towards more commercial advertising. Black Press file photo

Saanich makes play for more advertising cash

New advertising policy in effect at Saanich recreation centres

A new advertising policy in local recreation centres has yet to produce any new revenues, but Saanich officials are nonetheless hopeful it will benefit the public.

“We are not really expecting a huge [financial] impact,” said Kelli-Ann Armstrong, Saanich’s senior manager of recreation. This said, it is still early, and the change will make it easier for the public to find these services. “It means they could be more obvious in our buildings,” she said.

Council last October rescinded a policy that prevented health service providers operating out of local recreation centres from advertising in those facilities beyond whatever signage they needed to announce their physical presence. Under the new policy, these companies can now expand their advertising in local recreation centres.

Public spaces now available for advertising include plasma screens and scoreboards, community bulletin boards, arena boards, building banners, signage within the building, sandwich boards, road signs, as well as Saanich’s Active Living Guide and promotional material.

Five companies currently offer services out of local recreation facilities and none has so far asked to purchase additional signage space.

Saanich charges market rates for both advertising and rental space.

If companies contracting with Saanich were to ask for additional signage, local centre managers would have to approve the advertisement prior to its public appearance, said Armstrong. When council rescinded this restriction, it had heard from staff that the change may result in additional revenue for Saanich.

Armstrong said Saanich receives between $100,000 and $230,000 in estimated annual revenues from renting out space to health providers. The range reflects different types of arrangements with different types of providers, she said. Some pay a set rate, while others have signed revenue-sharing agreements with Saanich. “The busier they are, the more we receive,” she said.

Council also heard that the new policy would allow Saanich to reach more residents, as contracting partners promote healthy lifestyles in partnership with the district.

Saanich introduced advertising restrictions in 1999, when the delivery of health services through the recreation centres was an “untried venture,” according to Suzanne Samborski, director of parks and recreation, in a memo to council. Specifically, the policy responded to concerns that providers advertising in recreation centres would receive an unfair advantage by being closer to potential customers.

Fast forward two decades. “In 2017, there no longer appears to be a significant advantage or concern about market advantage by health partnerships who operate in a Saanich facility,” said Samborski.

This assessment rests on what Samborski has called a “limited response” to Saanich’s “open and transparent tender process that has allowed all interested parties to bid competitively on all levels of health service provision within the centres.” Businesses, which offer similar services, also continue to thrive, even those within a single block of a Saanich community centre, she added.

Samborski said the public expects to access health services within their community recreation centres, an expectation she predicts will increase. This expectation in turn could lead to further changes.

“In the future, the district will be able to leverage its long-term partnerships with health service providers and Island Health to expand health service offerings that support and promote lifelong health and activity,” she said.

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