Vancouver considers selling naming rights to public parks

The City of Vancouver is exploring selling name rights to public parks in order to generate revenue. (Rafferty Baker/CBC - image credit)
The City of Vancouver is exploring selling name rights to public parks in order to generate revenue. (Rafferty Baker/CBC - image credit)

The City of Vancouver is exploring the idea of selling naming rights to public parks and other city-owned assets in order to generate revenue.

The idea is one of 17 recommendations issued in January by the mayor's budget task force, in order to tackle the annual gap in infrastructure funding and rising property taxes.

"My team and I are committed to exploring new and innovative ways to address our city's $500-million annual infrastructure funding deficit and support our vibrant and growing community without burdening taxpayers," Mayor Ken Sim said in a statement to CBC News.

City staff are planning to begin discussions with interested parties as early as this fall, he said.

Staff are also currently exploring how much money Vancouver could make through corporate sponsorship, Coun. Brian Montague said in a Tuesday interview with On The Coast.

"I don't think there's any specific goal," Montague said. "I can tell you that there is a large amount of money that's being left on the table by not doing this."

Sim has said previously that he thinks it could bring in up to $100 million a year, which could allow the city to reduce property taxes.

Most recently, the city council approved a 7.5 per cent property tax hike as part of its 2024 budget.

And according to its 2023-2026 Capital Plan, Vancouver would have to increase property tax by one per cent — as well as around five per cent in utility fees — each year for the next decade to support infrastructure maintenance and renewal.

In order to protect Vancouver's brand, Montague noted that there is going to be a "very thoughtful process" and that not everyone with money is going to be able to attach themselves to the city.

"We want to make sure that anyone that comes forward with money in hand is a good fit for Vancouver, that isn't controversial, that fits in with our values and what Vancouverites want to see," he said.

Could come across as 'crass,' says city planner

Brent Toderian, a former chief planner for the city who is now a consultant, says there's a long history of naming civic-owned facilities through sponsorship in many municipalities, but it has to be thoughtfully done.

"There's been community-based fundraising forever, it seems, in terms of paying for civic things, but the idea of tacking on Rogers to yet another thing in our city does come across as crass," he said, using the telecommunications giant as a random example.

Toderian said a common goal for many cities is to build their brands as authentic and unique, which in its own right can be a draw for tourism and business — having branded names on things though could erode that.

"This kind of thing tends to feed the 'anywhereness' of cities — that it's just one more city with Rogers or in L.A., arena — one more of those that makes your city less authentic.

"Names have a powerful effect on city-building."