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The Buzz 10/18/12

Old is New The civic center is nearing 30-years-old. The facility’s new name—Pensacola Bay Center—is brand new.

In a presentation to the Escambia County Commission, the center’s management team explained the facility’s rebrand and marketing plan by quoting the musician Usher. General Manager Cyndee Pennington relied on Usher again in a follow-up press release.

“As we stated in the presentation … we have to evolve or we will evaporate,” she stated.

The new name is accompanied by a new logo. Because Escambia County owns the facility, commissioners were tasked with choosing from two different options—the first resembled a blue-green wave, while the second was a red-tinted sun.

“I always say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” County Administrator Randy Oliver told the commissioners. “The PIO staff prefers the blue, I think the civic center people prefer the red.”

The commissioners went with the wave-like logo, citing color consistency with other local entities, including the “my escambia” brand. Chairman Wilson Robertson also had a geographical aversion to the “pretty sunset.”

“We’re on the gulf, we’re not out in the desert,” he said.

The Pensacola Civic Center—now the Pensacola Bay Center—was built in 1985. The facility has hosted more than 13,000 events.

Recently, the venue was ranked by an international trade publication as the number one ticket selling facility in the state of Florida for its size (10,000 seats). The center was number 19 on the international list.

In the past, Escambia County officials have bemoaned the financial commitment to the facility. Following the rebrand presentation, Commissioner Grover Robinson praised SMG, the center’s management company.

“I’ve been amazed at what SMG has been able to provide us,” he said, noting an increased slate of events on the calendar.

SPLC Complaint Trigger Investigation The Southern Poverty Law Center was in town again recently addressing the issue of disciplinary discrimination within the Escambia County School District. The organization filed a complaint against the district in August, charging that African-American students were being disciplined—suspended, expelled and arrested—for minor infractions and at a higher rate than other students.

Representatives from SPLC met with community members this month at the First United Methodist Church. The meeting was a gathering of the newly formed Escambia County Youth Justice Coalition.

“OCR has accepted our complaint and has opened an investigation,” SPLC attorney Stephanie Langer told the group.

The discrimination complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Langer said she did not know what the department’s timeline would be.

The SPLC is planning to return to the area in November. The group is hoping to collect personal testimonies from students and parents who may have experienced disciplinary discrimination in the school district.

During the recent meeting, the concept of civil citations was discussed. The citations, proponents contend, offer an alternative to harsher punishments that introduce youth to the criminal justice system.

Langer relayed a recent settlement that OCR made with a school district in Oakland, Calif. She was encouraged with the federal settlement, and said it might be a good sign for the local complaint.

“Your numbers in Escambia are much worse than Oakland,” the attorney said.

Spill Money, Man With a settlement agreement between BP and more than 60,000 claimants looming, new BP Claims Administrator Patrick Juneau recently visited Pensacola. He spoke at Pensacola State College about how the claims process was progressing and said he expected more claims to be filed prior to the November deadline.

“There are still thousands of legitimate claims that haven’t been filed,” Juneau said.

Taking over for Kenneth Feinberg, Juneau is charged by the federal government with distributing BP settlement money to people and businesses claiming economic loss due to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Claimants—from Florida to Texas—are separated into varying zones that denote spill impact and which will eventually determine their payments.

“There has never been a larger or more complex case in the history of the U.S.,” he said at the local forum.

The claims administrator said as of early October, 7,144 claims had been declared eligible, with $422 million being approved for payouts. In the Pensacola area 11,214 claims have been filed—“only 10 percent of those claims were eligible.”

Many of the ineligible claims apparently lacked the proper tax and financial documentation.

“We can’t process those claims without those documents,” Juneau said.

Prospects Look Good Baseball America’s recently released list of the Southern League’s Top 20 Prospects includes four names familiar to fans of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.

The new ball team’s bench had a healthy showing on the list. Shortstop Billy Hamilton made the top five. Also on the list are pitchers Tony Cingrani (11) and Daniel Corcino (17) and shortstop Didi Gregorius (15).

In addition to ranking fifth on the Top 20 list, Hamilton also hit another high note this season when he surpassed Vince Coleman’s record of 145 stolen bases. The local Wahoos star stole 155.