CHARLOTTE – Area middle schools can dust off all of their sports uniforms and equipment, thanks to a sponsorship agreement between Hendrick Automotive Group and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Hendrick’s $250,000 sponsorship, along with a contribution from an unidentified donor, will fund the full lineup of 13 sports at all 32 middle schools for more than 6,500 athletes during the upcoming school year. Due to budget cuts, the district expected to reduce the number of sports offered in previous years.

“We believe that sports play a crucial role in students’ education and development,” Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh said in a news release. “Hendrick Automotive Group’s generous support is a great example of how the support of local businesses can make an enormous difference in the lives of children.”

The sponsorship agreement designates HendrickCars.com as an official sponsor of the district’s athletics program, which offers opportunities for more than 16,000 middle and high school students.

The agreement gives the company naming rights of statistics announced during breaks at high school sporting events, recognition as a title partner in announcements at the end of high school events and signs displayed at middle and high school athletic events. The company and school district expect to explore other promotional options, and the arrangement will not change any existing partnership agreements between school booster clubs and other organizations, district officials said.

The district will use the sponsorship money to help pay coaches’ stipends, fees for officials and athlete transportation costs. Students must still pay sports participation fees, introduced by the district for all middle and high school student athletes last year.

“As someone who participated in sports growing up and has kids who played, I understand the impact those experiences can have on young people,” Rick Hendrick, chairman of Hendrick Automotive, said in the release. “The lessons athletics teaches­­ – teamwork, communication, leadership, dedication – are valuable, and they’re carried forward into life and business. We feel this sponsorship fits with our company values, and we’re proud to be associated with everyone who makes it possible for these student athletes to be successful.”

Headquartered in Charlotte, Hendrick Automotive is one of the nation’s largest retail automotive operations. The company employs about 7,000 people at more than 100 franchises in 12 states, and is building a new dealership just south of North Mecklenburg High School.