Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Swapping names on West Burnside

Last Friday, as I was walking to a Timbers soccer game at PGE Park (OPKA — “once proudly known as” — Civic Stadium), I happened on a surprising, confounding and, finally, fortuitous appellation.

But first, a little history.

Six years ago, City Hall dumped the name “Civic Stadium” and sold the naming rights to the publicly-owned stadium to PGE (Portland General Electric, then owned by Enron — need we say more?). Hence PGE Park. The naming rights sale was part of a back-room renovation deal cut by the Katz administration. The peddling of similar civic names persists here with the Portland parks bureau recently gaining city council approval to sell off the names of parks facilities to corporate high bidders. I’ve written about this abomination before.

Okay, back to my discovery.

It came in the form of the 16-story condominium tower going up directly across West Burnside from the stadium. It’s name, by some stroke of genius, is “The Civic.”

So here we have a civic facility, PGE Park, now named after a monopoly private utility, directly across the street from a private, high-end condominium that has assumed the proud civic name once attached to the civic facility.

(A whimsical possibility is that the condominium’s developers have really named the building after a type of Honda automobile and are quietly taking naming-rights royalties from Honda. Stranger things have happened….)

Anyway, name-wise, things are sorely out of whack on West Burnside.

So here’s a suggestion. Why not do a name swap? The condominium developers could sell their building’s naming rights to PGE in exchange for returning the name “civic” to the city and the stadium. PGE Park is a not half-bad name for a condominium. After all, what’s fair for a proud civic stadium should be equally fair for a tony condominium.

So how will the city keep getting the PGE Park naming-rights money it has come to rely on?

Consider this: Because the condominium is approximately four times the height of Civic Stadium, the “PGE Park” sign atop the new building would be much more visible — and valuable. No doubt city officials have some control over regulating such elevated signs. Therefore they likely have the regulatory leverage to negotiate a deal to ensure that the stadium continues to receive sign money, thanks to the “added value” of the new, far more prominent placement.

Once the name swap is complete, the citizenry will no longer have to mouth a corporate plug in referring to the publicly-owned stadium where Portland’s teams play. No more “They’re playing at PGE Park” or “Do you have directions to PGE Park?” or “I’ll meet you at PGE Park” or "After paying my PGE bill I won't have enough money left to see the game at PGE Park."

Returning to “Civic Stadium” will be something for Portlanders to cheer about.

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Blogger Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

They might actually have named that new apartment block "The Civic" because that's what the old apartment block that was in that spot was called. Being at that spot made it sort of a public landmark.

This takes not one bit of irony off your apt observation, of course.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Distilled.Publishing@gmail.com said...

The more things change... I find it ironic how electric trolley cars came of age over 100 years ago, and here they come back again. Personally, I cannot wait for the day when we return to naming places for anything other than a corporate brand. Good post.

10:40 PM  

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