FOUR CORNERS – What’s in a name?
If it’s the name of a road, like the Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, then there’s history that comes with it, noted Mark Brisson, the director of marketing at Fun Spot Attractions on U.S. 192.
That east-west route is a United States numbered highway that runs from U.S. 27 in Polk and Lake counties past Walt Disney World, Celebration, Kissimmee, St. Cloud and Melbourne. The highway is named after a former state representative, senator and cattleman, Irlo O. Bronson Sr., who is best known for having sold land that Disney used to build Disney World on.
“The Bronson family has been a great asset to Osceola County,” Brisson said.
But he added that the name of this tourist corridor simply has to go. It’s too difficult to remember, too difficult to promote in marketing materials, and doesn’t lend itself to encouraging tourists to seek out the area in the same way that a name like International Drive in Orlando does, he added.
“From a marketing point of view, 40 percent of our taxes comes from tourism, and 40 percent of our jobs come from tourism,” Brisson said. “Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway is not tourist-friendly. It’s a great historic heritage, but it doesn’t help put heads into beds.”
Brisson is a member of the Osceola Resort Area Council, which operates under the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce and represents resorts on U.S. 192 and other parts of the county. This morning, Brisson took his case for changing the name of U.S. 192 to the Four Corners Area Council, which represents business owners in the Four Corners end of West 192. He attended the council’s monthly meeting at the Maingate Lakeside Resort to gain their support for asking Osceola County commissioners to consider a name change that lends itself more comfortably to promoting tourism.
“For those of you who have a business on West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway and are sick of writing that out, we want to make it more inviting for people to come here,” he said. “We are asking the Osceola commissioners for some marketing dollars to have a marketing research firm test some names.”
The possibilities include Vacation Way, he said.
“That makes it easier to market it,” Brisson said. “There are a lot of marketing opportunities with that. There’s a little town to the east of us called Christmas that gets thousands of visitors every year just so they can mail their Christmas cards from Christmas. Why can’t we have our visitors mail their post cards from Vacation Way?”
Christmas is a small town in east Orange County.
The name change wouldn’t just impact Four Corners, he said, but would extend past St. Cloud to the new subdivision of Harmony — a community that Brisson said has embraced the idea.
“Harmony says they’re interested in changing it to Vacation Way,” he said. “We’d like the Four Corners Area Council to be involved as well. We think the need is now. This is a great time to do it. To create a neighborhood here with a name change would be a great way to do it.”
Marc Reicher, the former chairman of the Four Corners Area Council, said if the highway does get renamed, Vacation Way should definitely extend past the center of tourism in Osceola County, which he said has become Osceola Heritage Park.
“We need to support Osceola Heritage Park at this time because it’s our biggest investment,” Reicher said.
Overall, though, Reicher said changing the name of a highway to promote more tourism isn’t hard to do.
“We did this in Orange County at one of our hotels, and this wasn’t a difficult process,” said Reicher, who is also the senior vice president of operations at ChamopinsGate Resort.
Four Corners Area Council member Sonny Buoncervello said the name change is probably a good idea, because at specific points along the roadway, U.S. 192 has other names, like Vine Street.
“Your most valid complaint is not Irlo Bronson,” he said. “Your most valid complaint is you have a whole bunch of names.”
Scott Smith, who also serves on the Four Corners council, said whether local businesses support the idea or not depends on how much it will cost to implement the name change.
“People are going to want to know, will my taxes go up, how much will this cost,” Smith said.
Brisson said that shouldn’t be an issue.
“FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation) has done this before,” he said, “and taxes have not gone up.”
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