Wednesday, May 20, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
The city’s name for the 61-acre brownfield acquired by Las Vegas nine years ago — Union Park — made sense. The $6 billion site was formerly part of the Union Pacific rail yard, after all.
Yet as the city developed plans for the park and some big-name tenants signed on, some involved with the project began to wonder whether the name Union Park adequately represented their vision for the site, where Las Vegas plans to build a new downtown.
The question has been answered. Change is coming in the form of a new name, “Symphony Park.” The name change is set to be ratified at today’s City Council meeting — timed to precede groundbreaking for the Smith Center for the Performing Arts later this month.
Symphony Park, west of Main Street and north of Bonneville Avenue, will be home of the region’s first comprehensive performing arts center and several other major civic and business developments, assuming plans eventually move forward.
Here’s how the decision was made to the change the park’s name:
About a year ago Rita Brandin, a top official with Newland Communities, the city’s project manager for the site, began bandying about the idea for a possible new name for Union Park with its main developers and city officials. They agreed to hire a consultant to study the issue.
“The general feeling was that the association with the railroad wasn’t resonating,” said Brandin, senior vice president and development director of Newland. The name should not only reflect the essence of the place, but also help attract people and new developers to the site, she said.
Newland hired New Jersey-based Cecilian Worldwide, a strategic marketing and branding firm. Cecilian charged Newland $110,000 for eight months of work, according to Brandin.
Kathleen Cecilian, the company’s CEO, and four others spent six weeks in Las Vegas, in August and September, to conduct videotaped interviews with the park’s tenants, as well as Mayor Oscar Goodman, several council members and other movers and shakers. About 30 of these sit-down interviews, which lasted 30 to 60 minutes, were augmented with another 70 man-on-the-street interviews in public venues throughout the valley.
Some of the questions: Have you heard of Union Park? What does that name mean to you? Is it appealing?
Cecilian said the consensus was that the site’s name “should be something as big as the place, something organic” — and Union Park didn’t convey those qualities as well as “Symphony Park.”
The new name had actually been staring officials in the face for some time.
The proposed strip of grass and trees slated for the center of the project, between the Smith Center and a boutique hotel designed by celebrity chef Charlie Palmer, is also to be named Symphony Park. That will not change, officials said.
Cecilian presented the proposed new name to about 40 current and future park tenants and their public relations consultants and Goodman and several other city officials in a closed-door, Oct. 14 meeting at the Molasky Building, a prominent Union Park neighbor.
“It was a ‘wow’ moment,” Cecilian said. “The response was overwhelmingly positive.”
An official with Molasky said the new name works because of its connection to the park’s anchor, the Smith Center.
“It’s wonderful that they are changing the name to Symphony Park, underscoring the world-class facility that will anchor that property,” Richard Worthington, president of the Molasky Group, said in a statement. “It’s fitting.”