Ten years later, residents weigh in on civic centre moniker

Gary Kean
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Melanie Burt was in Grade 4 at Sacred Heart Elementary when she and a classmate wrote a letter to The Western Star about the recently renamed Pepsi Centre.

In the letter, published in March 2004, Burt says an informal school survey found 76 per cent of the student body voted to keep the original Canada Games Centre moniker.

The Pepsi Centre name proved to be the least popular choice.

 “It should be kept the Canada Games Centre because it was made for the Canada Games,” Burt wrote at the time. “Everyone at Sacred Heart wants the Canada Games Centre to stay the Canada Games Centre.”

Nearly 10 years later, Burt — who is now 20 and living in Mount Pearl — still feels the same way about the building’s controversial rebranding.

 “I just felt like they shouldn't have changed it in the first place. The Canada Games Centre told anyone that went there that we hosted the Canada Games,” she told The Western Star via Facebook. “To me that was something to be proud of and it let everyone know about it. I have been in sports for a long time and the name meant a lot more to me than the Pepsi Centre.”

Mike Fleming also hopes the City of Corner Brook doesn’t miss its next opportunity to come up with a name for the regional civic centre — a name that will be accepted by more people than the Pepsi Centre was in 2004. The former Corner Brook resident, who has since retired and moved to St. John’s, was one of the people who spearheaded the opposition against dropping the Canada Games Centre name.

The 10-year deal, valued at $500,000, with Browning Harvey expires this month. The City of Corner Brook issued a request for proposals for the stadium’s naming rights last summer, with the deadline for submissions set for last September.

This week, Corner Brook Mayor Charles Pender confirmed there was only one bid submitted and that the city did not think the offer made was sufficient enough to accept. The mayor said the city will be reviewing how it will handle the naming rights issue, including  enhancing the value of the facility and consulting residents about what they think.

In 2004, there were no public consultations and citizens, led by Fleming and others, had to fight just to find out the details of the deal with Browning Harvey.

The arguments against calling it the Pepsi Centre hinged on the fact the name promoted a soft drink with little or no nutritional value, not to mention dropping a name that was a legacy of Corner Brook hosting the 1999 Canada Winter Games. In fact, it was the hosting of the national youth sporting event that helped the city finance building the new arena in the first place.

Much like Burt, Fleming’s opinion has not changed to this day. He is not against renaming the building after a sponsor, but wants it to mean more than just revenue for the city.

“Over the last 10-year period, the name of the Pepsi Centre has been printed or said millions of times,” Fleming said in a phone interview. “The opportunity was there to be responsible for what we should call it and I didn’t think that name was good for the younger generation.”

If it is not going to be named after the Canada Games legacy, Fleming said maybe the rights should be awarded to a locally owned company or a local cultural element.

Still, the taxpayers of Corner Brook currently subsidize the Pepsi Centre to the tune of $850,000 annually and the facility has seen its revenues declining in recent years, especially since the Corner Brook Royals chose to stop playing games there.

Last fall, the facility’s user groups protested the latest 10 per cent hike in rental fees at the Pepsi Centre.

Browning Harvey confirmed for The Western Star that it had submitted a proposal to maintain the naming rights. Pender said the city has reached an agreement with the company to keep the Pepsi Centre name until it decides how the naming rights will be dealt with.

Fleming is glad it looks as though the issue will be handled differently this time around and that the citizens of Corner Brook and the surrounding will be asked what they think should be done.

“I think the city is light years away from the secrecy from years ago when this happened,” he said. “Back then we just picked up the paper one day and said ‘holy smokes, they’ve renamed the Canada Games Centre to the Pepsi Centre.’”

Organizations: Pepsi Centre, Games Centre

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Canada, Western Star Mount Pearl

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