May 25th, 2018

Veiner’s daughter respectfully disagrees with selling building’s naming rights

By Collin Gallant on February 17, 2017.

NEWS FILE PHOTO The Veiner Centre is seen in this file photo. The daughter of Harry Veiner says selling the naming rights to the building would be disappointing.

The daughter of Harry Veiner says selling corporate naming rights to the soon-to-be rebuilt seniors’ centre bearing her father’s name would be “disappointing.”

Shirley Fitterman told the News that recent musing by a city councillor doesn’t fit with her idea of preserving heritage, but understands why it might be attractive.

“It would be disappointing; that’s one part of his legacy that we thought would last,” said Fitterman, who lives in Vancouver but does travel back to visit.

Veiner, the longtime mayor and local businessman, donated the land for the centre and helped push for the project in the mid- 1970s.

Fitterman said after so many years there are fewer and fewer people who remember those times.

“He was very important to the city at a certain time, and I would be against it. I would not be pleased but it’s out of my hands. It’s really what the city decides is best for the city.”

Coun. Brian Varga proposed the idea at a committee meeting this week, suggesting a policy to sell advertising and sponsorships for city facilities that could include naming rights.

Varga felt the Veiner Centre, the Family Leisure Centre and the Esplanade might be prime candidates.

On Thursday, Varga said no offence was intended but feels naming rights have been overlooked as a way to subsidize operational costs.

“The ‘Veiner Centre’ wouldn’t go away,” he said. “It would still be the Veiner Centre, but putting a sponsor’s name in front of it would help operate the building.”

Varga said he had recently attended a national sport tourism conference where the topic was discussed.

“Everybody is doing it all across North America, and it’s a money generator,” said Varga.

His fellow committee members said the move could bring in cash, though the practice should be tasteful and might not work well on some buildings.

“I’d never consider renaming the Esplanade,” Coun. Robert Dumanowski said.

Staff said no plans are in the works but a policy that will go before council next week would lay down guidelines of how advertisers and donors could be accommodated.

Varga agreed with Coun. Jim Turner that the biggest potential might be in donations to sponsor individual meeting rooms.

Elaine Freedman, who headed a $3-million community fundraising campaign to pay for Esplanade construction, said most rooms at the arts centre already bear a donor’s name.

However, she wouldn’t object to a corporation placing its name ahead of the “Esplanade,” or specific to the main theatre.

“Those are really the only things that are available,” she said.

“The time to do it is when you are building it, and that is easier said than done.”

The Esplanade campaign spanned more than two years and involved dozens of Hatters and corporations making sizable donations.

In 2013, the city embarked on a $10-million campaign toward event centre construction, but beyond a large donation from Cypress County, only $60,000 was raised from the general public.

Freedman said that is a lesson city council should heed.

“Fundraising is hard,” said Freedman. “The two things people hate most is public speaking and fundraising.”

The undisclosed deal between Canalta Hotels and private management company SMG-Canada was announced in 2015.

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