Welcome to the [insert corporate name here] Victoria Conference Centre

City explores whether citizens willing to sell naming rights to major public assets

If the naming rights to Victoria’s sports arena nets taxpayers $125,000 per year, would it be a good idea to seek a similar deal for its conference centre?

It’s a question Victoria residents will soon get a formal opportunity to weigh in on.

Coun. Marianne Alto has been leading the charge on the issue of naming rights, but it hasn’t been easy.

“It’s going to be a very tough road to hoe,” she said. While she admits it’s not a popular idea, Alto said “we have an obligation to consider all ideas.”

In a draft policy she crafted, she names the conference centre, Crystal Pool and the new Johnson Street Bridge as possible public facilities that lend themselves to sponsored naming.

In a tough economic time, these sponsorships “are possible ongoing revenue sources that can complement tax revenue,” wrote Alto.

At a governance-and-priorities committee meeting last week, staff recommended hiring a broker to pursue a sponsor for the conference centre, a facility which required a $764,954 tax subsidy this year.

Staff, however, recommended against spending time developing a city-wide policy governing the sale of naming rights.

“Staff expect that the Victoria Conference Centre is the only lucrative venue for naming rights (within) the City,” wrote Rob Woodland, director of legislative services. “Victoria is a relatively small market with few high-profile city facilities.”

Council voted to bring the issue to the public for debate before making any decisions.

This debate has already started informally through an online petition.

“The naming of public places in a city is one of the fundamental ways that geographic spaces are imbued with meaning to express the cultural values of a community,” wrote the petition’s creator, Reuben Rose-Redwood.

“By viewing public place names strictly in terms of their cash value, this sends a message to residents and visitors alike that the symbolic identity of the city is up for sale.”

As of Sunday, 69 people had signed the petition. See it online by typing “naming rights” in the search bar at change.org.

rholmen@vicnews.com

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