Say what you want, but Thomas M. Cooley Law School president Don LeDuc stands by the school’s decision to buy the naming rights to the minor league baseball stadium in Lansing, home of the Lansing Lugnuts.
When the announcement that the school had agreed to pay nearly $1.5 million so that what was Oldsmobile Park will for the next 11 years be called Cooley Law School Stadium, LeDuc heard the same criticism as every other newspaper reader. Perhaps it was an extravagance that a school which has, like every other college and university, has had tuition increases (and LeDuc has not promised in interviews with the media that there won’t be more of those).
But the school is getting great bang for its marketing buck, LeDuc says. The naming rights, he said, cost less than the school spends on billboard advertising, and makes up just 0.15 percent of its entire expenditures.
And it’s just darn unique.
“It comes out to about $135,000 per year,” LeDuc said. “And I don’t think any other law schools have done this.
“In Michigan we want to have an identity here in Lansing. The building is probably the third-best known in mid-Michigan.”
Aside from exposure in four directions, including visibility from the city’s main thoroughfares, Michigan Avenue, Larch and Cedar.Four directions of frontage, including visibility from the city’s main thoroughfares, Michigan Avenue, Larch and Cedar, the law school does get some ancillary benefits, which include a suite, executive box seats, and four or five events folded into the package.
“Some of the events we would have at another venue or on one of the campuses, we now can have at the stadium,” LeDuc said. And this summer, the school’s Cooley for Kids program will take some 500 kids to the ballpark.
The biggest user of the suite will be the students,” LeDuc said.
“We had to establish a committee to determine who gets to use it and when,” he said. “Our thought is each of our sanctioned student organizations would get to use it. And we’ll be reserving some seats for employers and the like, we will send students there to mingle, which is the same kind of thing we’ve been doing at Comerica Park.”
The reality, he added, is that the law school got an excellent deal on naming rights. Since the stadium has been open, more than 5 million visitors, and 350,000 tickets for events sold last year.
And competition to attract new students is fierce. Law school enrollment is flat nationwide, LeDuc said. Cooley has had modest 1-2 percent growth per year during the last four years, but during uncertain economies, it should have been higher.
“Usually in an off economy like we have now, it’s a boom time at professional universities and colleges,” LeDuc said. “But this recession is so deep that we’re just not experiencing that. Applications are fairly flat nationally, and so is enrollment.”
So LeDuc is taking the raised eyebrows in stride.
“When you do anything novel like this you’ll always hear some pushback,” he said. “But this is not a big part of our total expenses.”