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Chambers Bay or University Place? Let’s talk about it

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Aug. 20, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
August 20, 2012 5:57 pm

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

A new idea shouldn’t be tossed out just because it’s a new idea. The citizens of University Place ought to at least explore the merits of rechristening their city Chambers Bay.

Several city leaders floated the notion recently, and so far it hasn’t proven seaworthy. People tend to see their community and its name as an indivisible package deal. Call it something else, and it’s not quite the same place.

In this case, there’s a certain charm to a “University Place” that has no university. The city’s name dates to the late 1800s, when the founders of the University of Puget Sound decided to establish the school there – and then changed their minds.

The locals stuck with the name, which at least made the community sound as if it abounded in scholars.

“University Place” has a century of fond tradition on its side. Let’s consider the case for “Chambers Bay”:

The name is short, lovely and evokes images of a picturesque cove on Puget Sound. What’s more, University Place actually does have a picturesque cove on Puget Sound.

But the best argument for “Chambers Bay” is that people across the United States will recognize the name in a few years.

Tell strangers you’re from University Place now, and you’re likely to draw a blank. Out-of-staters (and many in-staters) either don’t know where it is or confuse it with someplace else – maybe somewhere in Seattle near the University of Washington. After more than 100 years, the name hasn’t registered on the national psyche.

But “Chambers Bay” is going to register – very firmly – in 2015, when one of the world’s premier sports events will be held at the Chambers Bay Golf Course.
The U.S. Open will draw golfing’s leading competitors, huge crowds and intense media coverage. Think of the Super Bowl held over several consecutive days.

The U.S. Open will happen at the golf course. But where – in the minds of TV viewers – will the golf course be?

Announcers won’t bore their audiences with explanations like, “University Place, a smallish city south of Seattle.” They will say something like, “The Chambers Bay Golf Course, near Tacoma,” or “south of Seattle” or worse, “in a suburb of Seattle.”

But if the announcers were to say, “the U.S. Open, in Chambers Bay,” the city’s name would resonate through the United States and abroad. For millions of viewers, the community would be on the map. No amount of money could buy that kind of exposure.

Is a place on the nation’s map reason enough to rename the community? Cities must sell themselves to attract business, and selling is easier with a recognizable brand name. This is at least a discussion worth having.

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