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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Forget what you knew about Toronto

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The National Trade Centre at Exhibition Place is a nice place to shop for boats and check out the latest in hot tub technology, but most of us probably aren’t emotionally involved with the building and its name, unlike a place like the Skydome, so labled after a province-wide naming competition and home to the teams that we love and hate. The Trade Centre did its job, and the name sort of told us what that job was. No poetics, it just worked, and has for quite some time. So it’s going to take some effort to change our mental maps of the city to recognize (and remember) that as of today, it’s been named the Direct Energy Centre.

Direct Energy, North America’s largest competitive energy and related services provider, and Exhibition Place today announced that they have signed a multi-year sponsorship agreement. The one million square foot facility formerly known as The National Trade Centre will be re-named Direct Energy Centre – An Exhibition & Convention Centre.

The naming rights fees will be used to invest in energy conservation at Exhibition Place. Direct Energy will also work with Exhibition Place to develop a unique solution to help it achieve its goals of energy efficiency and self-sufficiency and environmental excellence. Ultimately the facility will be a showcase that demonstrates commitment to conservation.

That sounds good and fine, but the shorthand name, “Direct Energy Centre,” doesn’t explain what the place is, or what it does (sounds like a place only certified electricians should go). Whether you support, hate or just don’t care about naming rights being sold off, the nowhere-ness of many of these names doesn’t much help establish place and identity, especially in a city like Toronto that is pre-occupied with this sort of thing. Compared to the Skydome renaming (it will always be the Skydome. Skydome Skydome Skydome), the loss of the “National Trade Centre” name is just a footnote, but another awkward moment in the psychology of the city.