What’s in a name?

For a growing number of Maine schools, the name on the outside of playing fields could mean the difference between having a quality facility and one that’s falling apart.

That’s why community leaders in Lewiston are looking to sell naming rights to what has been known as Don Roux Field.

It’s a move that we have all gotten used to on the professional level, but it’s new for public school facilities here. With the intense pressure on schools to do more with less, however, it makes a lot of sense.

Lewiston is right to bring in outside donors to pay for renovations of its stadium, and other schools should consider going to the business community to help support sports programs before taking a bigger slice out of the budget.

There is no question that sports are valuable. They teach teamwork, discipline and promote physical fitness. Studies show that students who are involved in sports do better academically.

Sports, however, have fierce competition when it comes to parceling out scarce public dollars. Other extracurricular programs, such as art and music, also add value to a student’s education, and core academic programs themselves also are fighting for more resources.

Sports teams, which bring whole communities together, have an opportunity to raise money in ways that the other programs do not.

Few businesses would pay to have their names on a classroom or a hallway, but they would for a gym, stadium or other facility that welcomes in the public, and they should be allowed to do it.

Athletic programs are not the only ones that can raise money through selling naming rights, but they have an opportunity to lead the way.

Traditionalists won’t like it.

Many athletic fields are named for a beloved former coach or for a community or veterans organization. It’s fitting for students to learn to respect the past and honor the people who came before them.

But if it means the difference between having a safe and attractive facility, or having nothing at all, the traditionalists should learn to live with this kind of sponsorship.

It might sound strange at first to talk about the game you saw using a name more familiar as a retail store or a shoe maker, but if it gives more kids a chance to participate in sports, it would be worth it.

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