Our Deaf Urban Ears

Union Park was a strong name. And it perfectly satisfied a name’s mission: to instantly connect people with an idea or a place, if not attract them to it.

It even had a nice little rhythm to it. When I heard “Union Park,” I thought about the sturdy future of downtown, to be built on the abandoned foundation of our history—the city bought the 61 acres from the Union Pacific Railroad. And maybe this is pushing it, but I also liked the idealism that the old name of this new centerpiece of the city subtly suggested, that of a place’s potential to finally unify us as a community.

So, what happened to Union Park? One day in 2009, while reading the morning paper, I saw that it had been renamed Symphony Park. It was a marketing move.

I gasped, and it must have been audible. Mrs. Grumpy asked what was wrong.

“They just suburbanized our greatest urban project!” I roared. “Symphony Park is a place you’d find in Summerlin, with nice grass, a band shell and kites. Unbelievable.”

She shrugged.

Maybe we are just used to ridiculous names here in our desert mirage. Who doesn’t know someone who lives on a street like Shimmering Dolphin Way? But that kind of stuff was just irrational naming exuberance of little consequence. You roll your eyes and drive on. Union Park was worth fighting for. And so I anxiously awaited the media backlash.

But it slowly dawned on me that nobody cared. I looked in vain for passionate reactions online. When I brought it up in conversations, the best I could get out of people was a sigh.

I let it go. For two years.

Then last week, when I was talking to a friend about what that area needs, he brought up the need for an institution to lead us into a truly urban future: a college or trade school that focused on technology. We’ve made luring high-tech firms a centerpiece of our economic diversification drive, so it makes perfect sense to open a dedicated downtown school to train our future digital geniuses. Imagine the boon to our diversity and creative class. I loved the idea. And his suggested name: Vegas Tech.

Only problem, we agreed: Vegas Tech just doesn’t sound like something that would ever be built in a place called Symphony Park.