City Park considers selling naming rights -- sort of -- for new regional playground

Denver Parks and Recreation has unveiled the beginning stages of a plan to overhaul City Park's Dustin Redd playground and replace it with a newer, larger model. The project comes with an end date of 2013 and the goal of creating a regional playground to attract visitors from across the metro area. While the project's funding has not yet been cemented, the playground's name might be up for grabs -- for a price.

A playground by any other name might smell as sweet, but it won't bring in money.

So far, the playground's key details remain murky, but they are ambitious. When officials noticed that Dustin Redd playground, the largest of City Park's two play places, had begun to deteriorate, they agreed to support rebuilding it instead of repairing its wooden structures.

"There was a vision from our planning department to make the entire project larger, to create a regional playground to attract people from all over to the city," says Angela Casias, marketing and communications specialist for Denver Parks and Recreation. "They're starting with the footprint for the original playground and will be expanding it, but they haven't decided to what degree yet. We're looking now for a design team, maybe even a design competition for the different phases, and we're currently looking at how much something like this would cost."

While the board of stakeholders is finalized and fundraising ideas are collected, one of the largest possibilities remains the option of a heavy local donation to fund the construction of the new -- and considerably larger -- playground. DPR has firmly established rules in place for the naming rights of its local resources: On a traditional basis, features can only be named after someone who has been dead for seven years. With the addition of a financial gift, these rules change.

DPR's website lists the general considerations for the names of new features as a series of questions:

a) Will the name have historical, cultural and social significance for generations to come? b) Will the name engender a strong and positive image? c) Will the name memorialize or commemorate people, places or events that are of enduring importance to the community or the nation? d) Will the name engender significant ties of friendship and mutual recognition and support within the community or with those outside the community? e) Will the name be identified with some major achievement or the advancement of the public good within the community or the nation? f) Will the name be particularly suitable for the park or the recreational facility based on the location or the history of the park, recreation facility or the surrounding neighborhood? g) Will the name have symbolic value that transcends its ordinary meaning or use and enhance the character and identity of the park or recreational facility? h) Will the naming request that accompanies a corporate gift result in the undue commercialization of the park or recreational facility?

It's unclear how many of these must be answered in the affirmative. The playground's current name comes with the memory of Dustin Redd, an area five-year-old who drowned in City Park's Ferril Lake in June 1996. (The decision to name the playground after their son incited a lawsuit from Redd's family in a series of actions that drew attention to complaints about the park's naming policies.) Although the new playground plans have yet to reach maturity, the playground isn't likely to keep Redd's name, says Casias.

"The only thing we're considering right now is the new playground," Casias says, to be clear. "It's not like there's this whole smorgasbord of things up for naming. And if we get a grant or some other type of funding, there will be no need to name it after a donor at all."

The playground's design, currently in the brainstorming stage, is scheduled for completion in summer 2012. The park itself comes with an end date of simply 2013.

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Kelsey Whipple
Contact: Kelsey Whipple