BRADENTON -- About a dozen residents gathered in front of Bradenton City Hall Thursday to protest the city's deal to name the new Riverwalk amphitheater after the Mosaic Company Foundation.
The Mosaic Company is a producer and marketer of concentrated phosphate and potash. Mosaic has a mining operation near Duette in Manatee County.
"This was an unquestionably bad decision," said Carol Pelletier. "Why not name it after one of our war heros, or longtime citizens or the Rossi family who donated the land?"
The residents said they were angry for multiple reasons when they learned Mosaic was to have its name on the amphitheater forever in exchange for $95,000.
Some protesters said the decision was made hastily and without public input, that not enough money was paid for such publicity and, most irritating to them, it created a disconnect between a waterfront attraction and a company that they feel is destructive to the environment.
"There was not due process," said Richard O'Brien, a Bradenton mayoral candidate who had a handful of supporters at the protest dressed in his campaign shirts.
"This is like someone naming a beach after BP. A waterfront attraction should not be named after the largest polluter in the state," O'Brien said.
Naming rights not permanent
Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston on Thursday said the naming rights will not be in perpetuity.
"We received a letter from Mosaic and the naming rights will be for 15 years, not forever," Poston said.
The decision to give Mosaic the naming rights was not a spur of the moment decision or one pushed through without transparency, but rather was the end result of a long process, Poston said.
"This was all absolutely legit," said Poston, who cast the third, tie-breaking vote in favor of the deal at the City Council meeting Wednesday. "This is what everyone tells us to do, go out and find money and appeal to people. That is what the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority did."
Voting against the agreement was council member Marianne Barnebey, who also is challenging Poston for mayor.
Poston said the DDA and Realize Bradenton researched the amount of money naming rights to amphitheaters in other locales have brought and "$95,000 was the number," Poston said.
Poston said he has no problem with a mining company's name being used on a waterfront attraction.
"I am not building a phosphate mine up there," Poston said. "We are naming an amphitheater. I find it curious that no one protested when Mosaic went out to name the arena at the Manatee County Fairgrounds.
"The bottom line is that Mosaic has been a good partner and there is a group of people who don't like them and timing is everything," Poston said. "If this wasn't an election year we wouldn't be hearing anything."