Iowa’s Community Choice Credit Union, embroiled in a signage flap with veterans, learned a thing or two recently about avoiding the passive role when it comes to staying on message.
In fact, the $327 million Johnston, Iowa CU took plenty of negative heat from veterans and the public when its successful $2.5 million, 10-year marketing agreement to win naming rights for Des Moines’ Veterans Memorial Auditorium and Convention Center raised civic ire.
Residents and veterans phoned TV stations and sent emails to the Polk County Board of Supervisors objecting to any suggestion of a name change for the venerable arena, built in 1955 and once one of the biggest of its kind in the Midwest.
As it turned out, the suburban Des Moines CU, while thrilled at getting the chance to tout positive support for vets having its name attached to the facility, found itself the target of the media blast when its plans to limit low-key signage got misinterpreted.
Veterans groups loudly protested to the city agency in charge of the downtown complex that they opposed the facility being renamed the Community Choice Convention Center.
According to CU officials, the interior facility was to carry the Community Choice moniker but the outside signage would retain the Veterans Auditorium name.
Misinformation about the signage had surfaced first at a joint press conference held Dec. 15 that included executives from the CU, Global Spectrum Corp., the developer, as well as architect representatives and those from the Iowa Events Center.
Apparently, amidst all of the talk about building design and logos for the $43 million renovation of the building set to open Jan. 9, “there was confusion about the signage” and on that “we should have been more active in keeping track of the message that was going out,” admitted Josh Cook, vice president operations/business development.
On Dec. 20 the signage fracas was brought before a meeting of the Polk County Board which ruled the large exterior Veterans Memorial signs would remain but emblazoned in smaller print would be Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center.
On its website, Community Choice tried to tamp down the controversy by stressing the CU’s close ties with veterans stating the primary concern in its role in the project was to make sure “our veterans were properly honored.”
“It was our belief that if the building itself was being renovated, the dedication to veterans should also be improved,” said the website, “we believed that if a naming rights sponsor were to exist, it firmly needed to be one that would make sure that honoring veterans came first.”As evidence of its commitment to veterans and as part of the naming program, the CU said it donated $25,000 to the Des Moines Vet Center, called by veterans groups the largest contribution it had received.