Fresno leaders hope to put a few more dollars into the city treasury by leasing bits of parks and other city land to an outdoor advertising firm for a handful of digital billboards. There is a side benefit as well: Dozens of older billboards along city streets would come down.
Outfront Media, which owns hundreds of billboards dotting Fresno’s major thoroughfares, is in negotiations with City Manager Bruce Rudd to lease sites at two city parks, at Fresno’s municipal service yard and in the right of way for the future Veterans Boulevard for the changeable electronic billboards – essentially big video screens with a rotation of ads that can be customized and changed as needed.
The proposed locations for the digital billboards are:
▪ The western edge of Woodward Park overlooking Highway 41 in north Fresno.
▪ The northern edge of Al Radka Park, overlooking Highway 180 near Fowler Avenue in southeast Fresno.
▪ The future right of way of Veterans Boulevard overlooking Highway 99 south of Herndon Avenue in northwest Fresno.
▪ Two sites at the city’s corporation yard at the junction of Highways 99 and 180 – one overlooking Highway 99, the other overlooking Highway 180.
The common thread of all of the sites is good visibility to catch the eye of passing motorists on the nearby freeways.
(Green markers on the map above denote proposed new digital LED billboards along freeways. Red markers denote static billboards to be removed on city streets.)
What’s in it for the city? At least $4 million over the next 10 years in lease payments from Outfront Media, including a one-time “signing bonus” of $325,000, according to Rudd.
Annual lease payments would be at least $378,000 – and potentially more – based on a percentage of the gross proceeds, Rudd said in a report to the Fresno City Council. “I believe, and I think I can speak for Outfront, that these are very conservative estimates of the ongoing revenue that would be generated,” he said.
Rudd hopes to bring a 20-year lease contract back to the council in June. Annual rent at each of the sites would increase over the second half of the leases.
The city began looking at the potential of billboards last year, “in an effort to find a creative way to augment or add general fund revenue,” Rudd said. Outfront Media was one of two billboard companies that responded to the city’s request for bids to lease potential freeway-visibility advertising sites at Fink-White Park, Roeding Park, Granite Park and the Fresno Convention Center, in addition to the sites at Woodward Park, Al Radka Park and the city yard.
Outfront Media had no interest in the other sites, however.
It’s not just the revenue; it’s the removal of those (50 other) billboards along some of our main transportation corridors going throughout the community.
Fresno City Manager Bruce Rudd
Rudd said the city didn’t originally consider the future Veterans Boulevard crossing at Highway 99. But Outfront Media already has traditional billboards in the right of way that the city is buying for the project. “So we would have to pay them the value of those billboards to remove them,” Rudd said. “What we’ve negotiated now is the ability to, when those need to be removed, … to allow them to build a digital billboard near that interchange on remnant right of way that will be left over after the project is built” and avoid having to pay Outfront Media to remove their old billboards.
But for the city, the proposition is more than about cash. Rudd said Outfront also will be taking down about 50 of its “static” printed billboards in other parts of the city.
“They do not complement or contribute to those neighborhoods,” he said. “It’s not just the revenue; it’s the removal of those billboards along some of our main transportation corridors going throughout the community.”
According to Outfront Media, all but one of the billboards coming out are in the southern half of the city, south of Shields Avenue. The Blackstone Avenue corridor, with its visual cacophony of billboards, signs and banners for businesses, is due to lose about a dozen billboards.
Most of the billboards are 12-by-25-foot “posters,” in industry parlance, but three are the larger-format “bulletin” billboards that measure 14-by-48 feet, Outfront reported.
The digital billboards use LED (light-emitting diode) technology to create a changeable image on the flat display surface. The technology allows advertisers to modify their messages electronically, without incurring costs for printing or for crews to manually hang a new sign. In some cases, a digital billboard can accommodate rotation of advertisements that change periodically throughout the day.
Rudd said Fresno is negotiating with Outfront for advertising time on the billboards to post public announcements for emergency situations such as child abductions.
City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria asked that the negotiations also seek advertising time – either for free or at discounted advertising rates – to promote city-sponsored events or for public outreach on issues of community interest.