BRADENTON -- Bradenton officials hope thousands of people will visit the newly renovated Riverwalk after its grand opening Oct. 18. But after the city approved a request Wednesday to name the amphitheater after the Mosaic Company Foundation, some have already scratched their names off the visitors' list.
"With Mosaic's name on it, I will not come," said Linda Jones, chair of the Manatee-Sarasota Group of the Sierra Club, a local chapter of a national organization whose mission is to conserve natural resources.
The Mosaic Company is a world producer and marketer of concentrated phosphate and potash. Mosaic has a mining operation near Duette in Manatee County.
Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston broke a 2-2 tie at Wednesday's council meeting by voting in favor of perpetually naming the Riverwalk's amphitheater after Mosaic's foundation, in exchange for a $95,000 naming rights grant.
Council members Gene Gallo and Patrick Roff voted in favor of the naming agreement.
"These are tough economic times. ... We put something out to the community and these are people that have stepped up and said, 'You know I have cash to part with,' which is something we are not hearing a lot of lately," Roff said.
Councilman Harold E. Byrd, Jr. and Councilwoman Marianne Barnebey -- who is challenging Poston in the Nov. 6 election -- said they were hesitant about the name being a permanent fixture. They both voted against the request.
Councilman Bemis Smith was absent.
Barnebey said that many times naming rights are contractual, and that she is having a "difficult time having this in perpetuity."
Byrd added that he is also concerned that naming the amphitheater after a company that members of the community objected to would hurt the overall Riverwalk project.
A company official defended Mosaic.
"The reason I joined, work for and advocate for Mosaic and our foundation is because I believe we operate under the highest ethical standards," Martha Monfried, vice president of public affairs for Mosaic Fertilizer, said at the council meeting.
"It is also our hope that in some small way having the Mosaic name on the amphitheater will help fuel the conversation to inform citizens about Mosaic and our work to help the world grow the food it needs," Monfried added. "And to be recognized as a vital part of the communities where our employees live and work."
Monfried said Mosaic and its foundation donated $8.4 million to Florida charities in the last fiscal year.
Jones, with the Sierra Club, did not speak at the council meeting, but said later that putting Mosaic's name on the amphitheater "diminishes the image of the park and cheapens Bradenton's reputation."
Mary Sheppard, a member of the local Sierra Club who was born in Bradenton and grew up in Manatee County, said she appreciated the Mosaic foundation, but urged the council not to approve the naming agreement.
"I wish I had $95,000 to give you," she said. "Phosphate mining ruins our natural land."
Sheppard said she is no longer interested in visiting the Riverwalk.
The amphitheater is being enhanced as part of a $6.2 million Riverwalk redevelopment. The Riverwalk stretches along the Manatee River, from the Green Bridge to Manatee Memorial Hospital. The completed project will include a day dock, splash fountain, skateboard park and tidal discovery marsh.
The Downtown Development Authority has been working on securing a variety of partners and financial supporters to ensure that the Riverwalk is well-designed and well-maintained, said executive director David Gustafson.
Nine other partners, including Tropicana, Manatee Memorial Hospital and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, are also supporting the Riverwalk to a total of $810,000, he said.
Poston said the Mosaic name on the amphitheater will be a positive thing for the city.
"It's time to applaud that we're successful," he said.