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9-Month Centennial Extravaganza Only Days Away : Long Beach Puts Its Best Face Forward for Fete

January 24, 1988|DAVID HALDANE | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — The logo is stylish.

Drawn abstractly, it depicts the curvy modern outline of a luxury ocean liner--perhaps the Queen Mary--starkly silhouetted against the backdrop of a dark-inked city. Beyond the ship, two white sailboats cut through an ocean of glassy yellow. And surrounding the scene, a bright red border draws one's eyes inexorably toward what seems to be a crisp view of urban life by a sea filled with fun.

The image started showing up around town about seven months ago, mostly on the sides of city buses. Gradually it spread, creeping onto the windows of local businesses and the walls of area supermarkets. Today it is everywhere: on restaurant menus, business cards, newspaper mastheads, napkins, coffee mugs, posters, commemorative pins, T-shirts, watches, visors, aprons, sweaters and flags.

It is the logo of the Long Beach Centennial. And beginning next weekend it will become even more visible as the city officially kicks off a celebration of its 100-year-old incorporation. It is to be a nine-month extravaganza that Adweek magazine recently dubbed "a marketing feast for a destination starving for an identity."

Original Idea Modest

Indeed, it was not always going to be a feast. Back in 1985 when a group of local business people first formed International City Celebration Inc., a private nonprofit corporation aimed at putting on the celebration, the idea was to mount a fairly modest event of a week to 10-days' duration. Then Joseph Prevratil, president of Wrather Port Properties and one of the corporation's founders, asked Peter Ueberroth, president of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, for the name of someone to head the Long Beach effort. Enter Dick Sargent, who had been vice president of operations under Ueberroth. A long-time resident, Sargent had a few ideas of his own.

"While (business) organizations might be inclined to donate a dollar to a short-term celebration," Sargent says he told the corporation's board, "they'd be more inclined to invest $10 in a program of long-term benefits."

Thus the centennial was born. Sargent, 53, was named president and chief executive officer of International City Celebration at a salary of $108,000 a year. His plan was adopted wholeheartedly by the board. And a campaign was begun to enlist the support of local businesses by appealing to their economic self-interest, as well as their sense of civic pride.

"Long Beach is still perceived as a sleepy little town," Sargent said. "Our desire is to use the centennial as a focus to try to tell regionally, nationally and internationally what Long Beach really is."

What Long Beach really is, he says, is a city in the midst of an economic boom with lots of office space for new mid-size businesses, a climate and location conducive to tourism and a host of hotels and restaurants eager to serve. In other words, a city with plenty of money to be made by existing businesses willing to promote its growth.

Apparently the pitch worked. In the year since Sargent's arrival, the centennial corporation has seen its budget increase from $15,000 in the bank to $1.8 million in cash and contributed goods and services. Those include complimentary airline seats, advertising commitments, hotel rooms, printing and design services and office supplies. About $200,000 came directly from the city, Sargent said, with the rest--$800,000 in cash and $1 million in goods and services--donated by the event's 130 corporate sponsors.

Three Categories

Those sponsors fall into three categories. "Major" donors include companies--such as IDM, Anheuser-Busch, ARCO Transportation Service and McDonnell Douglas--which have contributed $50,000 or more.

For $25,000, several companies became "exclusive" sponsors, meaning their goods or services are not duplicated by others in the same category. Among these are the Grand Prix Assn. of Long Beach, Memorial Medical Center, Ralph's Grocery Co., Century 21-Action!, Shoreline Village and Los Angeles radio station KBIG.

And somewhat smaller donors formed the "group" category whose contributions ranged from $22,000 from the Hyatt Regency hotel, to $525 from Maison de France, a small French restaurant downtown. (The Long Beach Press-Telegram is a major sponsor, with a $100,000 contribution; the Los Angeles Times is a group sponsor, with a $10,000 contribution.)

In return for their contributions, the businesses get the sanctioned use of the centennial logo, widespread mention in the event's considerable publicity blitz and participation in something loosely referred to by those involved as networking.

"Networking is important to most businesses," said Fortune Pritchard, co-owner of Flowers by Vickie, which has pledged $5,000 worth of floral services to the centennial celebration. "People see your work and see your name and you've sold yourself."

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