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What’s in a name? Plenty, say Lacey City Council

Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder said late Thursday that Regional Athletic Complex is one of the city’s top destinations for visitors, with its playing fields booked every weekend.
Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder said late Thursday that Regional Athletic Complex is one of the city’s top destinations for visitors, with its playing fields booked every weekend. Staff file, 2015

A plan to re-brand the Olympia Lacey Tumwater Visitor & Convention Bureau got a mixed reception at Lacey City Council late Thursday, leaving the council divided about a proposal that doesn’t include Lacey or Tumwater.

Instead, the proposed brand is “Experience Olympia.”

That news was delivered by VCB Executive Director Shauna Stewart, who updated the council on the organization’s re-branding effort and the work that went into it.

Stewart’s presentation was immediately met by criticism from Councilman Jeff Gadman, who said after the meeting that the VCB has a regional mission.

“By eliminating two out of three city names from their brand, I don’t see how that benefits the region as a whole,” he said, adding that he’d rather see an all-encompassing name, such as Experience Thurston County, Experience South Sound or Experience the gateway to the Pacific.

He doesn’t want prospective visitors to type “Lacey” into an online search engine and have the results say Experience Olympia.

But Stewart said people from outside the area do not recognize Thurston County or South Sound, but are familiar with Olympia.

Council members Jason Hearn and Lenny Greenstein — the city’s representatives on the VCB board — defended the VCB’s work, which included surveys taken by Tacoma-based JayRay Ads & PR.

“The research is absolutely clear that the name they know this area by is Olympia,” Greenstein said. “When you get outside this area, they do not know Thurston County, South Sound, Lacey or Tumwater.”

Greenstein suggested they give the proposed brand a chance.

“This name is the best name and the research bears that out,” he said. “Put the brand together, do the marketing and let’s see what the results are and I think we’ll be pleased.”

Greenstein said the VCB board was set to vote on the re-branding last month, but didn’t due to a lack of a quorum. Now, they’re set to vote next week on the matter, he said.

Councilman Virgil Clarkson acknowledged “Olympia does have significance,” but said “Lacey’s population will exceed Olympia and it will not be that far in the future.”

He referred to Olympia as a suburb of Lacey and that drew a chuckle from the council.

Mayor Andy Ryder said he understood the marketing philosophy behind Experience Olympia, but admitted it was a tough pill to swallow.

“I may be wrong, but I’m a Lacey man, and I think dollars speak volumes,” said Councilman Michael Steadman in reference to money the city contributes to the VCB budget. “Just consider that as we go down this process.”

After the meeting, Deputy Mayor Cynthia Pratt was more blunt in her assessment of Experience Olympia.

“I hate it,” she said.

Stewart said she looks forward to working with the council to make sure “Lacey shines and continues to grow its tourism.”

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