Is ‘Panther’ a more distinguished name than ‘Trinity’ for new project?

Posted Monday, Sep. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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The iconic Fort Worth nickname and symbol, Panther City, grew out of an exaggerated — fabricated, to tell the truth — account from an 1875 Dallas newspaper story.

“The high water in the Trinity overflowed the bottom and drove out a panther, who wandered at his own sweet will during the night through the streets,” the Dallas Weekly Herald reported. “Next morning his tracks were seen by the terror stricken natives, and a scene ensued which beggars description. The whole village turned out to examine the tracks of the monster, and a public meeting was immediately called — Fort Worth never does anything without a meeting”

Within hours, the panther that no one saw was said to have not only walked down the city’s Main Street, but slept there, making the city sound so dull a vicious animal could nap on the busiest thoroughfare without being disturbed.

Fort Worth officials could take a joke. They embraced the name “Panther City.”

Recently the panther theme has been revived, with life-size sculptures downtown, the mascot for a baseball team (the Cats) and an image on Fort Worth police officers’ badges.

Now it appears the $900-million Trinity Uptown project will be renamed Panther Island. Infrastructure for the 800-acre upscale waterfront development and flood control plan north of downtown is scheduled for completion in late 2023.

Amid ongoing controversies about the cost of the project, its use of eminent domain and whether it’s more for taxpayer-financed economic development than flood control, officials of the visionary Uptown plan have come up with the new name after having spent years trying to sell the public on the old one.

Because there’s already a popular entertainment venue called Panther Island Pavilion, which draws young and old to the river banks for special events, maybe the public already has bought into the new name. And perhaps that’s a good thing, since “panther” distinguishes the Fort Worth venture from the Trinity River project in Dallas and that city’s booming northern development called “uptown.”

But in 30 years when the project is fully developed, will “Panther Island” be sufficiently trendy, upscale and prestigious, or will the name change again over time? Will that name connect it to the river that gave it life?

Isn’t it a bit too early to tell?

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