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Bid to name convention center for late gov collides with arena's marketing priorities

Published September 18, 2007 1:15 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Calvin Rampton spent an unprecedented three terms building Utah's brand through a centrist approach. Now an effort to honor the late Democratic governor may be running into a partisan blockade.

Democrats are lining up behind a plan to rename the Salt Palace Convention Center after the popular politician, who died Sunday. Republicans are balking - saying not that Rampton isn't worthy of the tribute but that the name change could blunt the Palace's hard-earned marketing momentum.

"The feedback we've received from convention visitors and some of the other users of the Salt Palace [is] not positive so far," GOP Salt Lake County Councilman Mark Crockett said Monday. "Marketing of the asset is probably the biggest consideration."

Crockett suggests the county - which owns and oversees the Salt Palace - instead could name the facility's ballroom after Rampton and still honor "a great man."

A resolution has been drafted by former Salt Lake Tribune Publisher Jack Gallivan to change the Salt Palace moniker to the "Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center."

"He's really the father of modern economic development in the state," said Gallivan's son, Mickey Gallivan, who was travel council director under Rampton. "He's got personal sign-offs from the governor [Jon Huntsman Jr.], and [Salt Lake County Mayor] Peter Corroon is on board [with the Palace proposal].

"It's such a symbol of the economic vitality of the state that really was launched by Cal Rampton."

But before any signs can be erected, the County Council must approve the name change. And advocates may have to overcome some initial opposition.

Council Republicans, who outnumber Democrats 5-4, have reservations. So do Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau executives, who worry a new name will confuse convention goers, accustomed to the Salt Palace label.

"The term 'Salt Palace' has some brand equity that is important," said Scott Beck, president of the bureau. "It sounds to us like the Calvin Rampton story is a great story to tell. What we've told the mayor is if there's a way to maintain that brand equity and still honor someone, we think it's a great match."

Plenty of roads and buildings in the Beehive State bear the names of public officials. Consider the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building, the Frank E. Moss Federal Courthouse and the Scott M. Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City, along with the Bangerter Highway in western Salt Lake County and the James V. Hansen Highway in Davis County.

There also is a Calvin Rampton transportation complex in Taylorsville and the renovated Capitol will have a Rampton boardroom.

"He had a tremendous legacy," said Randy Horiuchi, a Democratic county councilman, who added that the council will let the proposed Salt Palace name change "marinate."

"We Democrats certainly idolize what the governor did for the state. It's a great idea."

Corroon, the Democratic mayor, likes the proposal, too, but wants to study it further.

GOP County Councilman Jeff Allen is skeptical.

"At first blush, I don't think it's a good idea, but . . . this is the first I've heard about it," he said. "We've done a lot of marketing already toward the Salt Palace [brand]. Now if we have to change the name then" that recognition is lost.

"It's not that [Rampton's] not deserving," Allen emphasized, "but there's a lot of other people who are as well."

But Mickey Gallivan notes the idea is not to wipe away the term Salt Palace, but simply to add Rampton to the moniker.

Jack Gallivan, his son points out, had a hand in the Salt Palace name as chairman of the convention center commission.

"Dad was the originator of that name," Mickey Gallivan said. "He doesn't want to get in the way of that."

He notes, convention centers in major cities such as New York, Chicago and San Francisco bear the names of famous public servants.

Besides, Gallivan said, Rampton should be honored for another lasting legacy: diversifying and modernizing the state's economy.

"When Cal took office, Utah's economy was Kennecott," he recalled. "It used to be said that when Kennecott sneezed, Utah said gesundheit."






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