Naming public facilities is like public art — we always know more about what we don’t like than what we do.
Take that new sculpture they put up at the corner of Victoria Street and Second Avenue
yesterday — please.
But there will be lots of time to debate the artistic merits of After Rome. Today we’re talking about naming things.
There’s no system for how or what we name taxpayer-funded landmarks. We name them after historical figures, location, hockey stars and even plants. Sometimes we just name them after what they’re used for.
Politicians usually decide; rarely, the public gets a say.
June Butler wrote City council this week proposing a “funding contest” to raise money for improvements to Overlander Park, a few acres of grass and tennis courts on the North Shore.
Butler suggested the park be renamed after the biggest donor as an incentive, and she offered to kick in the first $10,000.
Coun. Pat Wallace, while complimenting Butler on her civic pride, noted the pitfalls of renaming public facilities, especially without citizen input.
Wallace speaks with authority, having been part of a City council in 2005 that tried renaming Overlanders Bridge after the late Kamloops MLA Phil Gaglardi.
I generally avoid mentioning which well-intentioned, naive mayor broached the idea, but will remind you it wasn’t popular and council backed off .
We do sometimes name things after people, though. Flyin’ Phil still has no bridge named after him but there’s Gaglardi Square. We also have Mark Recchi Way, a Fuoco Block, the Henry Grube Centre and Kenna Cartwright Park.
Cartwright was the mayor in the early 1990s when a new hockey rink was being built. She wisely held a public contest to pick a name, which turned out to be Riverside Coliseum but, a few years later, the City got into the naming-rights game and it became Sport Mart Place, then Interior Savings Centre.
The outdoor stage a short distance away is called Rotary Bandshell because Rotary clubs donated towards its construction, even though most of it was paid for with tax dollars.
Not everybody is in favour of naming arenas after sponsors and bandshells after service clubs but that’s the new normal. And who’s to say Interior Savings Centre is any less inspiring than, say, the Civic Building?
I once sat on a committee overseeing construction of the water treatment plant. The engineers, with unfailing practicality, wanted to name it the Kamloops Water Treatment Plant. With a little finessing, it became the Kamloops Centre for Water Quality, at least a bit more descriptive.
TRU is heavy into naming rights but the naming of the university itself was cause for much divided opinion. There were all kinds of ideas — Concordia University was one. Gordon Campbell took charge and announced it would be Thompson Rivers University.
Then there’s Sagebrush Theatre. More than a few people asked at the time why we’d name a performing arts venue after a dryland shrub. The question remains unanswered.
Rename Overlander Park? The only thing more guaranteed to raise public ire than naming something is renaming something. Or maybe a rusty-looking piece of public art.