Who owns the word 'Olympic?' USOC requires Arlington Heights Park District to rename pool

  • The Arlington Heights Park District's Olympic Indoor Swim Center is being renamed Arlington Ridge Center after the United States Olympic Committee said the name -- in place since the early 1970s -- infringes on its intellectual property.

      The Arlington Heights Park District's Olympic Indoor Swim Center is being renamed Arlington Ridge Center after the United States Olympic Committee said the name -- in place since the early 1970s -- infringes on its intellectual property. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer, February 2019

 
 
Updated 7/5/2019 5:30 PM

Facing pressure from the United States Olympic Committee, the Arlington Heights Park District is renaming its Olympic Indoor Swim Center the Arlington Ridge Center when it reopens after renovations.

The park district this week officially announced the new name a little more than a year after receiving a letter from the Olympic committee's intellectual property division compelling the district to vacate use of the name "Olympic" for the recreation center and surrounding park.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The park district plans to rename the land outside the building, at 660 N. Ridge Ave., Legacy Park.

While other organizations also have been forced to change their name, including a Lombard sign business, many other commercial uses of the word have gone unchallenged.

For the park district, the pressure began with a June 2018 communication in which the USOC cited a 1978 law, the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, which gives the committee broad powers to control uses of the Olympic name and logos. Under the federal law, the USOC can bring a civil action for trademark infringement against any organization using the name without the committee's authorization.

The letter said the park district could keep the name if there was evidence it had been there before 1950. Olympic's indoor pool opened in 1970, and the park was branded with the name around the same time, according to Brian Meyer, the park district's director of recreation and facilities.

The district and USOC mutually agreed to a Dec. 31, 2019, deadline to rename the facility in concert with the completion of a $17 million renovation and expansion of the building.

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When complete in early 2020, the building will be the park district's largest indoor facility, with a gymnasium that has two full-size basketball courts, a second-floor indoor walking track, a 30-by-50-foot warm-water pool, a fitness area and multipurpose rooms.

A park district news release announcing the new name -- Arlington Ridge Center -- said it is reflective of the expanded building's "broader recreation commitment."

Meyer said district officials already were considering some type of renaming to reflect the new amenities.

Would "Olympic" have been incorporated in a new name had the USOC not stepped in?

"It's something, since we did not get the chance to discuss, we can't say for sure," Meyer said. "Obviously the new name kind of defines a multipurpose recreation facility. I think we're happy with the new name."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

According to Meyer, the Olympic committee said its intellectual property office is a small operation that addresses things as they come to its attention.

In discussions with the USOC, park district officials argued there are other titles branded with "Olympic" elsewhere. A simple Google search yields dozens of Chicago area businesses and restaurants using "Olympic" in their names, as well as another large park district in the Northwest suburbs.

Schaumburg Park District's Olympic Park, just west of Route 53 and south of the Woodfield Mall, has eight synthetic turf soccer fields and five softball diamonds that have hosted thousands of games since opening in 1995.

Schaumburg Park District Executive Director Tony LaFrenere said the district has not received similar communications from the USOC.

On the other hand, Olympik Signs in Lombard, maker of the iconic signs on many Chicago area buildings, was Olympic Signs from 1982 to January 2018. For years after being contacted by the USOC in 2000, it resisted the change, but it eventually gave in as legal costs climbed, President Rob Whitehead said.

The Arlington Heights Park District broke ground on its two-story, 53,975-square-foot addition at Olympic in August, and in October it began soliciting recommendations from the public on possible new names. The district received 260 ideas online and in person, and a committee composed of three district staff members and two park board commissioners sorted through the list before recommending Arlington Ridge Center and Legacy Park to the full park board for approval.

The name is a nod to the original name of the park -- Ridge Park -- and the residential subdivision built in the 1950s that surrounds it.

The new name, effective immediately, will be used as part of the district's marketing efforts. That includes the autumn program guide that arrives in homes July 20 and will include membership information for the rec center.

• Daily Herald staff writer Eric Peterson contributed to this report.

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