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Palm Beach Daily News
In a town full of "big egos," some residents and officials are worried about naming opportunities for the new Palm Beach recreation center possibly getting out of control.
Donations are expected to cover two-thirds of the $11.2 million cost of the recently approved Morton and Barbara Mandel Recreation Center. The Morton and Barbara Mandel Family Foundation is covering a third, Friends of Recreation another third and the town the other $3.7 million.
To help with fundraising, Friends of Recreation, a group of residents helping find donors for the project, wants to allow naming opportunities for different features at the new center.
The Town Council approved Wednesday a list showing various contribution levels and what features they would cover. But members said the friends group has to return in June with a detailed plan of how donors will be recognized. The council could approve, deny or modify the recognition proposal.
"Let's recognize that even with the generous donations that we would get, this is a public building and it belongs to the town of Palm Beach," Councilwoman Bobbie Lindsay said.
"This is town-owned property and I just want to make sure that we know what is proposed for the interior and exterior. The town should approve every name and vet them and make sure that we're not plastering names all over a single building."
Michael Ainslie, vice chairman of Friends of Recreation, said the group likely will propose a few brass plaques that will be "tasteful, consistent and small."
"There aren't going to be plaques all over the place," he said.
The donor opportunities list shows more than 40 naming opportunities ranging from $1 million for the gymnasium to $10,000 for a water fountain.
Contributions in between would sponsor a variety of features, including the multipurpose field, playground, fitness center, classrooms, clock tower, basketball court, porches, gardens, tennis pavilion and hitting wall, flagpoles, colonnades and scoreboards.
Councilwoman Julie Araskog was concerned there were too many opportunities.
"We could end up with 30 or 40 plaques, and it is a public building," she said. "Many residents have called to say they're concerned about a precedent that this sets."
Ainslie said 30 plaques is unlikely.
"First of all, we will not sell all of these naming opportunities," Ainslie said of the 45 options listed. "If we did we'd raise $8 million. And, we've already had three people who have given at the six-figure level who said they don't want any recognition on a plaque."
Ainslie said there likely will be a plaque in the lobby with a comprehensive list of donors, including those contributing under $5,000. But, plaques for higher-level donations need to go next to the item they're honoring because they will have Braille inscriptions, he said.
Councilwoman Danielle Moore asked Ainslie to remind residents how donors who contributed to the existing rec center will be recognized.
Ainslie said an "entire wall" of the lobby will include the history of the center, prior donors and other "appropriate recognition."
New center name
The new recreation center will be the first town building with a private name as part of its title. There are three town parks with private names, but no buildings.
Phipps Ocean Park in the South End is named for the Phipps family, who gave the land. Bradley Park near the Flagler Memorial Bridge is named for Col. E.R. Bradley, who also donated the land. And Boyd Park, at North Ocean Boulevard and Bahama Lane, was designated in 1962 in honor of former Town Manager J.M. Boyd.
"Since when do we want to start naming public municipal property after individuals?" resident Jeff Cloninger asked the council Wednesday. "A lot of big egos in this town, and if we start letting people name things after themselves we're going to have a town full of plaques.
"The naming opportunity is kind of a dangerous precedent to set. He's not giving the land, he's giving some money."
The council already approved the name last July when members signed an agreement giving the foundation the naming rights to the building.
Changing the name would require the town to reimburse the foundation for its donation.
The name of the center had to comply with town sign ordinances and receive approval from the Architectural Commission.
The commission approved the words to appear above the main archway entrance in three lines: Morton and Barbara Mandel, Recreation Center, Town of Palm Beach.
-- akopf@ pbdailynews.com Twitter: @aleesekopf
Credit: Aleese Kopf Daily News Staff Writer
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