Florida Tech's home field gives two schools an advantage

PALM BAY, Fla. – Florida Tech is renting Palm Bay High's football stadium in Melbourne and is expected to pay nearly $20,000 a year for spring scrimmages and fall games, Local 6 news partner Today reports.

The contract runs through at least 2016.

"Palm Bay High School has a beautiful stadium," Florida Tech Athletics Director Bill Jurgens told Florida Today. "To be able to host it there is a heck of a benefit."

Money will be divided between Palm Bay High and Brevard Public Schools; the latter will funnel all of that back to the school for upgrading and maintaining the stadium.

Palm Bay Principal John Thomas said the partnership will help pay for the field's artificial turf, which made its debut in 2006 after private donors raised the majority of the $550,000 cost.

Palm Bay High borrowed about $250,000 from the school district to complete the project. Part of Florida Tech's lease payments will go toward those debt payments, easing the burden previously carried by the school's football and band booster clubs.

In addition, school leaders say students will reap the benefits of stadium upgrades that have been paid for by Florida Tech, including a new press box that will allow games to be televised. Plus, students areexcited about attending college games on their campus.

"It's an excellent way for our kids to be able to see and be involved in the college atmosphere," Thomas said, adding that Florida Tech's games will not interfere with the school's sports schedule.

Brevard Public Schools regularly rents its facilities or fields when schools are not using them. The ongoing lease for the stadium is unusual, but not unique, said Judy Preston, Brevard's associate superintendent of financial services.

Brevard had a similar agreement with the Blue Ducks, a semi-professional basketball team that used Bayside High School's gymnasium in Palm Bay for about four years in the 2000s.

"We open our facilities to folks who want to rent them, as long as they're not being used for the school," said Mark Langdorf, Brevard's director of risk management, who worked on the Florida Tech contract. "We're very happy to do these types of arrangements."

In total, Florida Tech will pay $2,600 per game and $1,200 per scrimmage to use the stadium.

"It was strictly done to assist the school with the repair and replacement of items at the football stadium," Langdorf said. "Most of that will be for the artificial field, but there could be other needs at the stadium as well."

In the agreement, Florida Tech has reserved all the radio and television broadcast rights for the games. It also allows the university to host concessions and to post advertising, which will be taken down after each game.

The university has agreed to abide by school rules — no tobacco or alcohol on the premises, including in the parking lot — and will pay for security officers to patrol and enforce those rules during games.