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Little League sponsorship deal might fizzle

June 20, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HANCOCK

Because Hancock is a Pepsi town, Hancock Little League's attempt to install a Coca-Cola-sponsored scoreboard might fall flat.

Town Manager David Smith said Monday that Hancock has a vending contract requiring it to sell only Pepsi beverage products. In return, the town gets almost half of the money collected from most Pepsi vending machines.

The town owns Gerber Little League Field, where the new scoreboard was to be placed. Smith said the Little League has no authority to negotiate a sponsorship deal there on its own.

Shannon McKinley, Hancock Little League's president, said she didn't know the town needed to be in on the deal.

She said Smith told her on Friday not to put up the new scoreboard, which is expected to arrive this week.

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Hancock Little League planned to protest the town's order on Monday by having players march, in uniform, down Pennsylvania Avenue.

However, at the direction of Jay Stouffer, the local Little League district administrator, the march was canceled.

"It's against Little League policy to involve the players in that type of situation," Stouffer said, referring to the protest. "Their charter would be in jeopardy."

Hancock Little League's Major Division - ages 9 to 12 - plays at Gerber Little League Field.

McKinley said the scoreboard there stopped working after many years. She said she tried to reach Pepsi and Coca-Cola a few months ago to ask about sponsoring a new scoreboard, but only heard back from Coca-Cola.

In return for a scoreboard from Coca-Cola, the Little League would have to sell Coca-Cola products for five years, a common arrangement for Little Leagues, she said.

McKinley said she doesn't know what the league will do now.

On Monday, The Herald-Mail obtained a copy of the town's contract with The Pepsi Bottling Group of Elliott Parkway, near Williamsport.

Under the agreement, which runs from Jan. 1, 2004, to Jan. 1, 2009, The Pepsi Bottling Group may install at least 10 vending machines on town property.

The Pepsi Bottling Group agreed to pay the town $1,000 upfront and $1,000 at the end of each year the contract is in effect. The money is used for student scholarships.

Hancock also receives 45 percent of the money collected at Pepsi vending machines on town property. The exception is Gatorade, a Pepsi product for which the town receives 25 percent, minus sales tax or deposit.

A call to The Pepsi Bottling Group for comment on Monday was referred to Unit Manager Jamie Karp, who was not in the office.

A message left at Central Coca-Cola Bottling Co. in Hagerstown was not returned.

Smith said the town helped the Little League take down its old scoreboard and was going to help put up a new scoreboard - until it found out Coca-Cola was the sponsor.

He said the league's attempt to bring in Coca-Cola is unlawful and is unfair to Pepsi, which has "kept their end of the bargain."

If the Little League used Pepsi vending machines, "we would give all (of the town's share of) the money from machines to the Little League," Smith said.

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