CLEARWATER — Coachman Commons — or at least the name — is under attack again.
The $64.5 million redesign of the Clearwater waterfront has already been shown to the public in a series of reveals using the branding, “Coachman Commons.”
The City Council in the fall gave Assistant City Manager Michael Delk verbal approval to rename Coachman Park to Coachman Commons. It has been referred to as Coachman Commons in news articles, on radio programs, on the city of Clearwater website, and has been oft-used in public debate.
So, it was with some chagrin that Delk informed the Feb. 2 City Council work session that the Parks and Recreation Board had heard from citizens opposed to the Coachman Commons brand. The Parks board had asked Delk to put the question before the public again so another name could be found.
The parks board had unofficially rejected the name in the fall, which led to City Council discussions about a naming contest or selling naming rights to a corporation, and other solutions. The City Council considered those ideas but rejected them as time-consuming and, as Delk said, “fraught with peril” should an inappropriate name be chosen.
City Councilman Jay Polglaze, noting that new council members come on board after March 17’s election, suggested letting the new council tackle the naming. “Let the new council decide,” he said. “If the new council comes in seven weeks and they feel so inclined …”
Delk, however, said the city must settle the issue because he needs an official name to market the property to national developers.
“Whatever we call it,” Delk said, “we’re going to use that as part of our marketing and branding.”
Polglaze quickly reconsidered leaving it up to the next council.
“If you need to go through with marketing, then for me, Coachman Commons is it,” Polglaze said.
This was quickly followed by a debate over naming the project Coachman Commons or Coachman Park, which Councilman David Allbritton said was OK by him.
“I know we’ve had pushback, I think we have to be moving forward, and I like the rebranding, so Coachman Park/Coachman Commons is fine with me.”
In the end, the City Council decided on a resolution to name the development area Coachman Commons with a smaller section designated Coachman Park. The vote will be Feb. 20.
According to Delk, that lets the city keep its smaller Coachman Park, while marketing the larger parcel as Coachman Commons.
“Based on what we understand our direction to be, we will draft (a resolution) that retains the Coachman Park name for the original park,” Delk said. “We may, in fact, incorporate some signage or markers to that effect in the future waterfront park area.”
The larger project, to include the $14.5 million amphitheater, fountains, natural lake, Japanese gardens, waterfalls, playground, and renovated Main Library will retain the grander name, he said.
“We will then look at an area-wide park and facility common name of Coachman Commons,” he said. “In that possible scenario, Coachman Commons will contain Coachman Park, an amphitheater that may have naming rights in the future through partnerships.”
He also said organizations might purchase naming rights for other components of the park.
“We can consider those at any time.”
Red Cross to evaluate city lifeguards
The city’s Long Center has an Olympic-sized pool that serves thousands of people a week. They come to swim laps, to compete against other swim teams, and even try out for the U.S. Olympic swim team. Its lifeguards, who teach everyone from babies to adults how to swim, are certified by the American Red Cross.
Sandy Clayton, the city’s Recreation Division manager, oversees the pool and lifeguards.
“We provide swim lessons annually to reduce child drowning,” she told the Beacon. “But we undergo an independent audit every year, which includes a written report that lists areas where we are strong, where there are areas of concern, and suggestions for improvement. Then there is follow up staff training for any areas of concern.”
The City Council approved $4,000 for a one-year service agreement with the Red Cross for Aquatic Examiner Services to assess lifeguard operations at the Long Center. According to Clayton, the inspectors ensure that policies, procedures, protocols, emergency actions plans, lifeguard safety and rescue equipment, such as CPR and other tools, are available and working.
“They review our policies, procedures, everything down to what the guards are wearing,” she said. “They check to make sure the Long Center’s permits and licenses are in place, and all the guard’s lifesaving certifications are up to date. It’s something we do annually.”
According to the Red Cross, they make both announced and unannounced visits to the facility, checking the availability and condition of rescue equipment, the condition of poolside areas, the location of lifeguards, staff scheduling, emergency action plans, and other details.
“They even evaluate our uniforms, to ensure people can easily identify us when they need assistance,” Clayton said.