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Name changer? Mayor pushes for Coastal Virginia

Name changer? Mayor pushes for Coastal Virginia

Would Hampton Roads by any other name smell as sweet?

The mayor of its most populous city seems to think so.

Mayor Will Sessoms referred to the region as "Coastal Virginia" nine times during his roughly 25-minute State of the City address this week. When asked why, Sessoms said he thinks it's time to rethink how the region markets itself.

"I don't hear 'Hampton Roads' very much. I don't think people know where Hampton Roads is," he said. "We've got to do a better job promoting our region."

The idea isn't a new one.

The Southeastern Virginia Tourism Alliance roughly two years ago changed its name to the Coastal Virginia Tourism Alliance. Ten tourism groups signed on to the change, including ones from all seven Hampton Roads cities, Smithfield, Williamsburg and the Eastern Shore, said Jim Ricketts, former chairman of the alliance and director of the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Hampton Roads Magazine followed suit, and it now appears on newsstands as Coastal Virginia Magazine.

Ricketts said the tourism alliance isn't promoting the change, though the name appears to be gaining momentum.

"It better defines where the region is," he said Friday.

Officials decided in the 1980s to call the region "Hampton Roads," a name describing the channel linking several major waterways with the Chesapeake Bay. The confluence made the region a maritime hub.

Before then, it was "Tidewater." To some, it still is.

Maps, postmarks and landmarks carry the newer name, including the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and the Hampton Roads Convention Center. The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce hosted Sessoms' speech.

Changing the region's moniker may not be the answer to helping more visitors and businesses find their way here, but Sessoms doesn't think it could hurt.

" 'Coastal Virginia,' I kind of like," he said, laughing, after his speech Thursday. "I don't know if you picked up on that."

Kathy Adams, 757-222-5155, kathy.adams@pilotonline.com

The Virginian-Pilot

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