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City eyes sponsorship revenues

Mar 20 2012

Victoria should be able to sell naming rights to city facilities without selling its soul, says Coun. Marianne Alto.

"There are lots of folks who think the very idea is an anathema. There's no detail you could discuss that would make it good. It's just in principle that it's the wrong thing to do," Alto said Monday.

"There are just as many people who say it's about time," she said. She's in the latter camp - so long as regulations give the city control to ensure nothing is done that conflicts with the city's vision and values.

Alto, who has been working on policy proposals to deal with corporate sponsorship for city facilities since last summer, believes her new policy covers all the bases.

Alto says there are probably five city facilities that lend themselves to sponsored naming: the Victoria Conference Centre, Save-on-Foods Memorial Arena (when the current sponsorship contract expires), Royal Athletic Park, Crystal Pool and the new Johnson Street bridge.

Other facilities could be identified as the policy evolves, she said.

She suggests five global principles to drive the policy:

? The city welcomes proposals for naming rights and parkade advertising, while reserving the right to guard against undue commercialization of the public realm;

? All proposals and parkade advertising require city council approval;

? All proposals must complement the city's mission goals and values: respect, inclusivity, integrity and compassion;

? Some properties (such as libraries and city hall) are not available for naming rights or advertising;

? Properties with names of historic significance will be considered for renaming only in exceptional circumstances - and only after consultation with the neighbouring community.

Alto said with council looking under every rock to reduce costs and find new sources of revenue, naming rights shouldn't be overlooked. Moreover, given some of the deals already inked elsewhere in the province, the idea is worth considering.

But slapping corporate logos on local properties isn't likely to make enough money in a city the size of Victoria to make it worthwhile, countered Coun. Pam Madoff.

"I'm looking to see what other value does it bring other than monetary," Madoff said.

"I would expect the amount of money it would generate would likely be fairly modest. In a city like Victoria, it's very different from what Vancouver or Toronto might generate through those corporate opportunities."

Madoff said Alto's proposal says special care should be taken with facilities of historic significance. Yet three of the four buildings Alto cites for possible sponsored naming - Royal Athletic Park, Crystal Pool and the Johnson Street bridge - meet that criterion, Madoff said.

In 2004, the Jim Pattison Group agreed to pay $1.25 million over 10 years to put the Save-on-Foods name on Victoria's new arena. But aside from that deal, Victoria has had a policy against corporate naming of civic facilities.

Two years ago, Victoria councillors kiboshed the idea of selling naming rights for the conference centre.

Council will discuss the proposal next month.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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