Chamber of Commerce thinks 'Old Pueblo' is old hat, wants a new nickname for Tucson

Tucson has been known as the Old Pueblo for nearly a century, but some at the city's Chamber of Commerce want that to change
2013-07-07T00:00:00Z Chamber of Commerce thinks 'Old Pueblo' is old hat, wants a new nickname for TucsonGabriela Rico Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 07, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Perhaps the time has come for Tucson to drop the "Old Pueblo" nickname.

Leaders of the Tucson Metro Chamber recently proposed that to its members.

"Tucson has a choice," the chamber's board Chairman Kurt Wadlington and CEO Mike Varney wrote in the program for the chairman's lunch.

"We can remain the 'Old Pueblo' or we can do whatever is necessary to propel ourselves forward to grow, prosper and compete with other cities and regions for the bounties of free enterprise," the duo wrote. " 'The Old Pueblo' is great for history buffs, but a new mind-set and attitude toward prosperity is long overdue."

In an interview, Varney said it was a chamber member who suggested that Tucson had grown beyond its nickname and that leaders should "develop a forward-thinking mind-set."

"That really struck me," Varney said. " 'Old Pueblo' has become an attitude that resists change."

He said the chamber embraces the history and culture of Tucson, "but we cannot have an 'Old Pueblo' mind-set in a 21st-century economy that is filled with speed and innovation."

Varney said the chamber has no immediate plan to create a new slogan. Rather, he and Wadlington wanted to float the idea and see if business and tourism officials agree it is time for a change.

The majority of people they've heard from say yes. The Star asked several local leaders if we should embrace or replace "the Old Pueblo." Here are some of their responses:

"Image long gone"

Visit Tucson recently rolled out a new travel brand for the Tucson region, and of all the potential visitors, community leaders and residents who weighed in, " 'Old Pueblo' never surfaced as a consumer perception of Tucson, a top tourism attribute, nor was it ever used as an identifier for describing our region's rich cultural heritage," said Allison Cooper, vice president of marketing for the tourism organization.

"Tucson's days as a dusty old desert town are long gone," Cooper said. "What consumers and potential travelers are telling us is Tucson is a progressive city ripe with attributes and attitude that argue for a younger and more active demographic and identity."

"Archaic motto"

"I don't think we should be stuck with an archaic marketing motto that has little relevance to either our present or future," said Mike Holmes, executive director of Imagine Greater Tucson, the nonprofit organization tasked with creating a future vision for the area.

"We have to be realistic and acknowledge that no matter what we do, there will be someone who will always refer to us as the Old Pueblo," he said. "But this shouldn't keep us from redefining ourselves now, or describing ourselves to the outside world in ways that are more realistic, and more optimistic."

Holmes suggested a citywide contest to pick a new nickname.

"If we conducted some community-based process like this, then the name we chose would be organic, and not some slick Madison Avenue invention," he said. "And it would be a reflection of how we think of ourselves rather than how some outside marketing firm thinks it sees us."

"Part of who we are"

The new brand Visit Tucson rolled out "highlights our history, culture, and diversity as modern, attractive and unique reasons to visit, live and invest in Tucson," said Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. " 'The Old Pueblo' is part of that.

"The Old Pueblo is part of who we are."

"Move beyond"

"I believe it's time to move beyond 'the Old Pueblo,' " said Donovan Durband, a Downtown advocate. "We can and should continue to cherish the history, cultural traditions and architectural landmarks that make Tucson special, and build on those character-defining elements.

"We shouldn't forget we're the Old Pueblo, but we can and should build on that foundation by embracing contemporary technology and economic opportunities," he said. "Appreciating our history shouldn't mean rejecting progress."

"More than Old Pueblo"

"Our Old Pueblo charm, outdoor lifestyle, commitment to healthy living, respect and appreciation for our wonderful environment and great weather appeal to everyone. But these assets are not enough to secure a bright future for the region," said Ronald Shoopman, president of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council.

"We must attend to many other factors if we truly want to prosper," he said. "We can start by completing the transformation of our downtown, improving the infrastructure and appearance of our community, improving education and addressing the governance missteps that seem to plague us.

"A new brand and tag line are great," Shoopman said. "But it is far more important that we put aside our differences and commit to the actions necessary to make Tucson all it can be, which is significantly more than the Old Pueblo."

"Who cares?"

"We can embrace the historic nickname that has served us for more than a century while still energetically moving forward to promote prosperity and change," said Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. "I am not particularly concerned about what we call ourselves. I am more interested in how we perform as a community.

"Old Pueblo, New Pueblo, Real Pueblo, Science Pueblo. Who cares as long as we are moving to expand our employment base, increase regional wage rates and respect our environment?"

On StarNet: Should Tucson shed the "Old Pueblo" nickname? Take the poll question at azstarnet.com/polls

Did you know?

Tucson has been subject to several nicknames. In the early 1980s, the city became "The Sunshine Factory" after a contest with more than 4,000 entries.

In the mid-1990s, there was a push to brand Tucson as "Arizona's Other Natural Wonder" and in 2000, the slogan "Tucson: Real. Natural. Arizona" was briefly adopted.

But through it all, the "Old Pueblo" has stuck around.

In the 1920s, the Tucson Sunshine Climate Club was formed to bring tourists to Tucson.

Tourism ads were filled with the phrase "Old Pueblo" to brand the location with its exotic Spanish-Indian past.

Founded in 1775, Tucson was first called the Presidio San Agustín del Tucson.

Contact reporter Gabriela Rico at grico@azstarnet.com or 573-4232.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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