Florida's largest phosphate minig compay paid $95,000 to the Downtown Development Authority for the naming rights to the amphitheater in the heart of the city's newest crown jewel — Riverwalk at Rossi Park.
The Mosaic Company got a bargain in winning lifetime naming rights to the highly visible riverfront Amphitheater. Councilwoman Marianne Barnebey questioned Dave Gustafson, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority about why the city would give the naming rights in perpetuity at such a valuable location.
The council was split on the decision about giving Mosaic the naming rights for $95,000 so Mayor Wayne Poston broke the 2-2 tie voting in favor of the lifetime rights saying it "elevates the image of Bradenton."
"I have a difficult time with this being in perpetuity," Councilwoman Marianne Barnebey said. "Naming something as important as the amphitheater forever, troubles me."
She said by giving away the naming rights without limitation, no other company can later come in and offer to buy the naming rights for the amphitheater.
Councilman Harold Byrd also voted against selling Mosaic the naming rights, in part because the issue of phosphate mining is controversial and there are negative feelings associated with it.
"We're making a move for $95,000 that will bring some negavitity to this project; for something that will be there forever," he said.
He said support for Riverwalk has been all positive up until now and he doesn't want to change that with a controversial decision on naming the amphitheater.
The $95,000 is a grant from the Mosaic Foundation and it will be used for maintenance and operations at the amphitheater, according to the grant.
Mosaic paid $15,000 this year to have its name on the arena at the Manatee County Fairgrounds. It has sponsored the arena every year for the past 15 years.
Mary Shepherd, who spoke in opposition to giving Mosaic the naming rights said that the company uses to much of Florida's water and by depleting the watershed, a finite resource, it makes itself a finite business.
"We lose 40 percent of our future water for people and nature," she said. "It you name the amphitheater after this company I won't be happy as a person who was born in Bradenton."
"$95,000 is nothing for them," Shepard added. "They spend so much money on television and newspaper ads, $95,000 to brainwash us is peanuts."
But City Councilman Patrick Roff said that the city can't afford to turn down any money given the tough economic times.
He said while he likes to consider himself a conservationist, funding things for the city comes first in such tough economic times.He questioned the urgency on giving Mosaic naming rights in perpetuity, but in the end voted in favor of the proposal.
"We've done a lot of things for money that I wish we hadn't had to," Roff said.
Jackie Barron, a spokeswoman for Mosaic, said that the amphitheater naming rights offers Mosaic "a place of honor" in the heart of the county.
"We have an opportunity to be part of an exciting project in the city," she said.
Signs throughout downtown will direct residents and visitors to the Mosaic Amphitheater.
Gustafson said the DDA is working on other naming opportunities throughout the park. He also said that Mosaic has other money that may be available for Riverwalk Park.
In addition to the $95,000 amphitheater grant, the DDA has applied for a $350,000 grant for the tidal marsh project included in the park. There is no guarantee that the city will get the grant, which is set to be reviewed this fall.
But Barron said she expects that Mosaic will be involved in Riverwalk in perpetuity.
Mosaic leaders said they want people to know the good that the company does and that it has a reputation as an ethical company that contributes to the community.
"Investing in the core of the city is good for the community," she said, "Riverwalk supports that."