BlackBerry maker plans local skate, publicity in Waterloo to celebrate new phone

Call it BlackBerry Town — even if the name isn’t official.

Research In Motion is taking extra steps to ensure its hometown of Waterloo, Ont. is part of the fanfare surrounding the unveiling of its new smartphones.

The company plans to hold skating parties at community rinks, as well as decorate light poles in areas of Waterloo and neighbouring Kitchener with banners to promote BlackBerry and thank the community for its support.

The plan required city leaders to make an exception to long-standing rules about corporate advertising on city property. Local councillors in Kitchener gave the company the go-ahead in a vote earlier this week.

BlackBerry-themed skating parties will be held at Kitchener City Hall and in Waterloo Town Square on Jan. 30 to coincide with the reveal of the new smartphones on Jan. 30.

“It’s just a small way of saying thank you for sticking behind us and being there during the transition period,” said Morgan Elliott, director of government relations, in an interview.

The free skating event will be held on the city rinks, which are open to the public on a regular basis. RIM says it will supply complimentary hot chocolate and BlackBerry-branded cookies.

But the event hasn’t been met with unanimous support from community leaders.

Kitchener Coun. John Gazzola said the city should stand firm on its policies that forbid advertising to the private sector on community property.

“Every time somebody comes around you can’t just be changing your rules, because otherwise you don’t have any rules at all,” he said.

“It’s a matter of principle.”

He said if the city wants to change its rules for corporate advertising then it should make permanent changes, rather than exceptions.

Gazzola also noted that skating events are always free for local residents.

RIM said it hopes to hold skating events in other communities as well, including Cambridge, Ont. and in Halifax, where the company has a customer service centre.