Plan to honor athletes trudges on

By: Jon Brines Journal correspondent
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More than two-dozen concerned citizens attended Tuesday’s Endurance Capital Committee meeting, many unhappy with the Downtown plaza’s sports focus. Committee members attempted to clarify what they called “misinformation,” but some citizens remained dissatisfied and left with concerns. Residents in the audience quickly took issue that the square at Lincoln Way and High Street will be officially renamed Endurance Plaza with the city’s ongoing Streetscape redevelopment project. City Manager Bob Richardson said there was no discussion about renaming the square. “There is no sign issued one way or the other,” Richardson said. “Unless people want a sign saying Central Square.” According to historians, the name Central Square was a moniker the corner earned in the 1890s because it was half-way between the old courthouse and the East Auburn River Station. “To my knowledge it’s never officially been named anything,” said Mike Otten, president of the Placer County Historical Society. The same is true for the endurance walk of fame planned by the committee. “The name Endurance Plaza is just a term of convenience,” said Gordy Ainsleigh, the Western State 100 Mile Run founder who advises the committee. Others like Dave Allen from the Native Sons of the Golden West passionately argued for retaining the name Central Square. Allen said he wants the council to officially recognize it before everyone knows it by the project’s name in default. “I am really concerned with the name Central Square disappearing,” Allen said. “I think over time it will morph into Endurance Plaza, that’s why it is important for us to get the Central Square name out there.” Endurance Capital Committee member Potato Richardson disagrees with Allen. “I venture to say it will never be called Endurance Plaza,” Potato Richardson said. “None of us think of it as Endurance Plaza. Auburn is much more than endurance.” After the issue of the name of the square was addressed the committee laid out the look of the first set of 12 tiles to be placed in the center of the plaza, listing the founders of local endurance sports events and describing their impact on the sports. The tiles are 2-foot by 2-foot granite pavers with letters carved into the surface. According to city plans, they will be placed around the center of the plaza not far from the planned live community Christmas tree. The criteria for future walk of fame consideration was not identified during the meeting but will be presented to council with the complete design recommendation from the committee as early as the Aug. 24 City Council meeting, according to the city manager. Bart Ruud, 2009 McCann Award winner, said he was satisfied after hearing the plans, but also said the theme decided by the design committee in 2006 was still too narrow. “Today, we learned a little bit more of what the big picture might be,” Ruud said. “I have no issue with recognizing those people but I think Auburn is bigger.” City Manager Bob Richardson laid out the grand vision for the nine-phase Streetscape project that he said is now estimated to cost $12 million. He said much of the Auburn history not addressed by the Endurance Capital Committee would be worked out in another committee. “If the council says, ‘let’s get another phase going then we can start the project,” Bob Richardson said. “If we went and said, ‘Let’s hold off and do history first.’ I would be stunned if they do it in a year. There are so many issues coming into play.” Bob Richardson passed around a sign-up sheet for those interested in joining the history walk committee. Concerned Auburn citizen Melanie Barton, who heads up Placer County museums, said the history walk should have been the city’s first project. “The Streetscape is like a river going through the town,” Barton said. “If we could establish where the different themes were along the route, and endurance was one of them, it would go a long way toward the community coming together to support the project.” Councilman Bill Kirby said he’s ready to receive the recommendations from the committee in council and hopes more citizens will come to the meeting on Monday to have their voices heard. “This is one small part in the middle of the square,” Kirby said. “All of the other things that go into the square are going to be related to the Auburn community and it is a much bigger project.” Longtime resident Smitty Virgil said with the economy and the state taking redevelopment funds away from the city, he is doubtful the history walk will ever be created. “The timeline project isn’t going to happen,” Virgil said. “They are going to run out of money before that.” Committee member Harvey Roper said he hopes the larger idea is not lost in the “miscommunication” that spurred people to come to the meeting. “This is just an advisory group that has a public duty,” Roper said. “We’ve done what’s been asked of us. The (citizens) are pouring out their passion because they love this town and they want the best for this town. That’s my mission, too.”