Shoestring Financing

A new chapter in the civic life of Orange County is being written: the park at what was once El Toro is about to become a reality. That's the good news (or, at least, as good as the news gets). The bad news is it's not the El Toro you're thinking of, and the park is less than great.

Lake Forest, the better part of which was known as “El Toro” before the city's incorporation in 1991, is converting a plot of city land into a public skate park. As is fitting for a city that author David Seidman once described as less a community than “a set of real-estate developments,” the city fathers have situated their skate park next to the corporate headquarters of Etnies, the clothing manufacturer that caters to skateboarders and other extreme types who express their individuality by dressing like every other Etnies customer.

A happy synergy? It only gets happier: Lake Forest has sold the naming rights of the new park to the company. For the next 20 years, it will be Etnies Skatepark of Lake Forest.

Corporate sponsorship is nothing new—Huntington Beach is a Coca-Cola city, Garden Grove's official drink is Pepsi—but this deal goes even further. Etnies is kicking in $100,000, which sounds like a lot but is in fact just 10 percent of the projected cost of the park. (By contrast, Garden Grove's deal with Pepsi earned that city $1 million over 10 years.) In return for this, Etnies gets two decades of inescapable advertising at a premium venue that will be maintained at public expense. (For those of you a little slow on the math, that works out to $5,000 per year.) And that's not the best part for the company: as the Los Angeles Times noted, Etnies will have “exclusive use of the public land at certain times.” Translation: when it suits the company's purposes, it can keep the public out of a public park.

It's a new twist on the Orange County tradition of putting corporations before people, and maybe it'll inspire others. Perhaps instead of a Great Park at El Toro, we'll get a Kellogg's Frosted Flakes Thhheeeyyy'rrrree Grrrrreeeeaaaat Park. And maybe Kellogg's will even let us use it.

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