Moniker Sells

It was a picture-perfect scene of festiveness, family, and sport. The sun shone and the happy crowd roared as multicolored bullets of fiberglass and steel hurtled around the 1.5-mile oval of the freshly christened Homestead Motorsports Complex.

Er, make that the 1.5-mile oval of the freshly christened Metro-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex.

The otherwise glorious inauguration of the $57 million facility two weekends ago did suffer from one tiny blemish: inconsistent nomenclature. Amid the barrage of publicity -- local and national media coverage, plus a blizzard of advertisements and signage -- it was never quite clear what the darn raceway was called.

While the local press managed to haul off and deliver the entire official moniker most of the time, the national media was less rigorous. In a Sunday, November 5 story, the New York Times eschewed "Metro-Dade" entirely, opting for the more manageable "Homestead Motorsports Complex," as did announcers for CBS Sports, which broadcast the race on television.

The incongruity was understandable, given that the track was officially named a scant four weeks before it opened. Until early last month, the facility was known as the Homestead Motorsports Complex. But Metro-Dade bureaucrats and politicos thought the county deserved a spot in the credits, too. After all, it was county commissioners who kept agreeing to shovel more and more public funds -- $31 million in all -- into the project. One of the only strings they attached was the condition that they'd have a say in naming the place. And so it was that commissioners voted October 5 to precede the existing name with 'Metro-Dade.'

Miami Motorsports, Inc., the firm that operates the track, scrambled to make changes. Miami Motorsports spokesman Kevin Courtney says workers were able to alter some signage and printed material, but many items -- press kits, letterheads, the cover of the program, and the banners that festooned major roadways at the site and all around Dade -- remained unchanged. The snazzy logo, with the words "Homestead Motorsports Complex" in red, white, and blue, flanked by two checkered flags, also remained unchanged. Identical signs that graced the walls along the backstretch and the homestretch were adjusted, with a small Metro logo tacked next to the existing HOMESTEAD that had been painted in tall, forest-green block letters. The alteration, however, was nearly invisible to spectators in the stands, and was reduced to a green-and-blue smudge on TV. (Further confusing matters was the name of the inaugural event -- the Jiffy Lube Miami 300 -- whose title was the prerogative of the sponsor and the race organizer.)

The resulting race- deficiency prompted annoyance among some Metro officials. Commissioner Bruce Kaplan, in particular, was peeved. "CBS didn't mention it once," he says angrily. The commissioner, who had opposed the county's involvement in the racetrack's development, didn't attend the event or watch the broadcast but he says that staff members reported the oversight to him.

Kaplan criticizes the entire agreement between the county, the City of Homestead, and Miami Motorsports, specifically the fact that Metro won't derive any direct revenue from the facility. "I think Dade County should be recognized somehow," says Kaplan, suggesting that perhaps the facility ought to be renamed "The Racetrack at Dade County."

The issue surfaced briefly at the county commission meeting two days after the Jiffy Lube 300. After each commissioner (with the exception of Kaplan) had commended the race organizers, Commission Chairman Art Teele noted that he was "troubled" by the facility's name. "Civic pride is fine," Teele asserted, "but this is about money." He discussed hiring a marketing firm to help come up with a suitable moniker. "I think we need to do focus groups around the world and come up with a name that really makes sense," he suggested.

Reached by phone, Teele expresses his dissatisfaction with the unwieldiness of the current name A by gagging. "That was my first reaction when I heard it," he chuckles, adding that he isn't at all sure that "Metro-Dade" needs to be in there at all. "The county manager and the Homestead city manager and the promoter should sit down, hire a first-class consultant, and do what any other corporation would do that's making a $50 million investment," he elaborates. "Maybe 'Metropolitan Dade' is the right name, but I don't think you spend $50 million and not do a study."

Homestead Mayor Tad DeMilly is wary of all the talk about tinkering. "I don't think at this point we need to confuse things any further with additional naming," he grumbles. "The people of south Dade County, and of Homestead in particular, have a tremendous amount of pride having their name on the facility," he explains. "In fact, a lot of people are resentful of the fact that it's now called Metro-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex." The mayor pauses to sigh in frustration, then continues cautiously: "I'd have to do a tremendous amount of talking in the local community to convince them to take the name 'Homestead' off of it and put something in its place."

[This ran below Metro 31A]
Call it What You Will
Come up with a great name for the new Homestead racetrack -- and save us all a fortune in consulting fees!

Daytona has the Daytona International Speedway. In Alabama, it's the Talladega Superspeedway. South Carolina's got Darlington Raceway. Indianapolis, of course, is home to the Brickyard -- the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Here in South Florida, we're calling our brand-spanking-new world-class racetrack the Metro-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex.

Not only does it sounds about as scintillating as a subcommittee meeting of the executive board for the International Association of Cardboard Creasers, but a person is liable to chip a tooth just trying to utter it. Even some members of the bureaucratic brain trust that dreamed up the tag now wish they hadn't. Metro Commission Chairman Art Teele has even suggested hiring a top-flight consultant to do market surveys around the world in an effort to find the best name possible.

We recognize a cry for help when we hear one, and so should you.
Simply choose one of the names below -- or better still, write in your own suggestion, photocopy or cut out this page, and fax or mail it to the appropriate officials.

Be sure to send us a copy, too: The author of our favorite submission will get to drive the pace car in the 1996 Miami Grand Prix. (Valid driver's license not required.)

Runners-up win a free hour of tango lessons with Miami Motorsports partners Ralph Sanchez and Wayne Huizenga.

Dear Powerful City or County Official:
In order to spare county taxpayers further expense and embarrassment, I hereby respectfully suggest that the Metro-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex be renamed as follows:

[There was a checkbox next to each]
Fittipaldi Land
Perhaps the Southernmost Speedway in the USA
Ho-Down at Ho-Dade Raceway
The Homestead Back-On Track
Hurricane Andrew Speedway
Oval o' the Americas
RALPH (RAcing LaPs Here)
_________________________ [WRITE YOUR SUGGESTION HERE]
YOUR NAME:___________________
YOUR ADDRESS:________________
CITY, STATE, ZIP:____________
Chairman Art Teele
Board of County Commissioners
111 NW First St., Suite 230
Miami, FL 33128
Fax: 375-1363
Dade County Manager Armando Vidal
111 NW First St., Suite 2910
Miami, FL 33128
Fax: 375-4658
Homestead City Manager Will Rudd
790 N. Homestead Blvd.
Homestead, FL 33030
Fax: 246-3241
New Times Editorial Department
PO Box 011591
Miami, FL 33101
Fax: 372-3446

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Kirk Semple