Skillman gives $1M to Center Grove schools

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

One of the Indianapolis area’s largest auto dealers is donating $1 million to Center Grove schools so parents with children in athletics don’t have to pay a new participation fee.

Ray Skillman, who operates eight dealerships, including the flagship Southside Auto Center on U.S. 31near Greenwood, will pay installments over five years in exchange for advertising rights at school athletic facilities.

The Center Grove School Board approved the agreement at its Monday meeting.

“Money talks, and whenever you start getting into financial straits, you start looking for help from the corporate world,” Board President Carol Tumey said.

Center Grove is among numerous school districts across Indiana that have been forced to make deep budget cuts to offset state reductions in education spending.

To generate additional revenue, many districts are instituting “pay-to-play” programs in which students pay a fee to participate in sports or other extracurricular activities.

Center Grove estimated that the fees it had planned—$170 at the high school level and $80 for middle school students—would have generated $210,000 annually. That’s how Skillman arrived at his decision to give $1 million over five years.

Skillman, who was unavailable for comment Wednesday morning, has an option to renew the deal for another five years, Tumey said.

It’s the largest gift the school district has ever received.

“We had never been on the receiving end of this kind of donation,” she said. “We were just in awe of his generosity.”

Tumey acknowledged that Center Grove has not been very active in seeking sponsorship deals to generate additional revenue. But advertising at the high school level is becoming more common, as schools look for creative ways to reduce budget shortfalls.

Hare Chevrolet has a 10-year deal with Noblesville High School and IU Health signed an agreement in 2008 under its previous name, Clarian Health, for naming rights to Hamilton Southeastern’s football field.

“Schools have taken off the handcuffs and realize that all money is green, and that it’s an accepted revenue stream,” said Ray Compton, CEO of event promoter Compton Strategies.
For Skillman, it’s the second such deal he’s inked with a school district. In September, he agreed to give Franklin Central $125,000 over five years in exchange for signage at its athletic facilities.

Skillman also will donate an additional $10,000 to Center Grove to support band, choir and drama programs.



  • donation?
    J.E. Smith - exactly right. This is not a donation, this is a savvy businessman incurring marketing expenses, both with signage and this public relations.

    Sass - Why would he throw money at a corrupt organization full of ideologically blinded leaders who have consistently failed -- like IPS. Leadership and philosophy is the problem at IPS, not money.
  • It is his Money
    1.) It is Skillman's money and he can do with it what he wants!!! That is his right!!!

    2.) Those that do not like it to bad!!! You are allowed to voice your opinion!!! That is your right!!!

    In the end for both points....who cares!!!
  • smart philanthropy
    Clearly most of us don't even have $1 million to donate, Blake, so maybe it is sour grapes on our part. But no doubt the majority here have donated to something, and we are within every right to point out a dead fish if it stinks. Center Grove is the Carmel of the southside, an unambiguously wealthy district that is probably a far more advantageous platform for Skillman's self-promotion than, say, Manual High School or even Southport High. Virtually all families in Center Grove can easily afford the fees, and it will hardly democratize sports at a large wealthy school district where only the elite make the varsity teams. Clearly the system is a meritocracy and it has every right to be one, but with increasing negative press on inflated athletic budgets during these lean economic times, is this really the best way Skillman could have used his money?

    If a person you otherwise respect decided to donate to a political cause with which you disagree, you would understandably pass judgment. I'm not saying being judgmental is a virtue, but since it's human nature, it's hard to muster much sympathy for a sawdust/plank analogy from those who apparently approve of Skillman's donation.
  • Ungrateful People
    I don't understand how there can be some many people out there who criticize an act of generosity. My question to all of those who have negative feelings, have you donated any money to IPS schools? I'm guessing the answer is no, so before you pass judgment, look in the mirror.
  • CG for Athletics and not IPS for Academics?
    Like Center Grove parents really need the support. Why not put the money to use where lives and the city can be changed? In my opinion, the money could be put to better use than athletics. I still believe every kid should have the right to play school sports - and as many sports as they like. This just seems like a waste.
  • SAD
    Some people do nothing but complain.How sad
    when someone gives money they dont have to give.Some people have something to say about it .Are any of you giving anything or is it
    your kids dont go to center grove and your not getting anything.
  • Interesting
    Although voters in CG turned down the school's referndum increase request, I guess this just goes to show that schools can find a way to get the money they need without having to go to the public with a huge referendum. Can we revote in Westfield?
  • Gift or sponsorship?
    A "donation" in exchange for advertising is not a donation. I'm sure the IRS will help Mr. Skillman figure that out. He's doing a fine thing but it's not philanthropy in the pure sense. He's getting something in return.
  • Very interesting ---
    Schools are taking all the help they can get these days. I wonder how long it will be until major companies or corporations actually pay for the naming rights to an entire school -- like the Verizon Wireless Middle School or maybe Lucas Oil High School. Seriously, it might come down to that if money woes continue. It's about finding creative ways to increase the revenue stream at these schools, so if that's what it takes, then so be it, I suppose. Go Fightin' Cell Phones!
  • Interesting
    Question, is this a "Donation" or simply an advertising deal? Moreover - a tax write-off or a advertising line item... Either way "Yes Money talks!"

    Post a comment to this story

    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by

    facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
    Subscribe to IBJ
    1. I think the poster was being sarcastic and only posting or making fun of what is usually posted on here about anything being built in BR or d'town for that matter.

    2. Great news IRL fans: TURBO the IMS sanctioned movie about slugs running the Indy 500 has caught the Securities and Exchange Commission because Dreamworks had to take a $132MILLION write down...because the movie was such a flop. See, the Indy/IMS magic soiled another pair of drawers. Bwahahahahahaha! How's CARTOWN doing? HAHAHAHA...Indy is for losers.

    3. So disappointed in WIBC. This is the last straw to lose a good local morning program. I used to be able to rely on WIBC to give me good local information, news, weather and traffic on my 45 minute commute.Two incidents when I needed local, accurate information regarding severe weather were the first signs I could not now rely on WIBC. I work weekend 12 hour nights for a downtown hospital. This past winter when we had the worst snowfall in my 50 years of life, I came home on a Sunday morning, went to sleep (because I was to go back in Sunday night for another 12 hour shift), and woke up around 1 p.m. to a house with no electricity. I keep an old battery powered radio around and turned on WIBC to see what was going on with the winter storm and the roads and the power outage. Sigh. Only policital stuff. Not even a break in to update on the winter storm warning. The second weather incident occurred when I was driving home during a severe thunderstorm a few months ago. I had already gotten a call from my husband that a tornado warning was just southwest of where I had been. I turned to WIBC to find out what direction the storm was headed so I could figure out a route home, only to find Rush on the air, and again, no breaking away from this stupidity to give me information. Thank God for my phone, which gave me the warning that I was driving in an area where a tornado was seen. Thanks for nothing WIBC. Good luck to you, Steve! We need more of you and not the politics of hatred that WIBC wants to shove at us. Good thing I have Satellite radio.

    4. I read the retail roundup article and tried Burritos and Beers tonight. I'm glad I did, for the food was great. Fresh authentic Mexican food. Great seasoning on the carne asada. A must try!!! Thanks for sharing.

    5. John, unfortunately CTRWD wants to put the tank(s) right next to a nature preserve and at the southern entrance to Carmel off of Keystone. Not exactly the kind of message you want to send to residents and visitors (come see our tanks as you enter our city and we build stuff in nature preserves...