Tim Mouser admits to feeling like a proud father. Each time the chief operating officer of the Utah Grizzlies walks through the new E Center, he can't stop gushing.
"Wow is going to be the word most commonly heard around here," said Mouser. "The average person walking in is going to say, `Wow. I had no idea it was going to be this nice.' Everything is first class."From its carpeted concourses and tiled walls to a state-of-the-art sound system, the new home of the International Hockey League's Grizzlies is hardly lacking in amenities.
"We didn't want to have to make apologies for anything," said Mouser. "We designed a facility that was very player friendly and very fan friendly."
As anchor tenant of the E Center, which opens its doors to the general public with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 19, the Grizzlies had plenty of influence during the construction phase of the hockey venue for the 2002 Winter Games. The Grizzlies, who have signed a 25-year lease and hold options on three five-year extensions with West Valley City for the building, serve as the E Center's official sales and marketing arm. In addition, Grizzlies owners David Elmore and Donna Tuttle have formed two organizations to handle all arena operations - Centennial Management and Diamond Concessions.
Control of the facility, however, will change for 16 days in February of 2002 when the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee takes over.
"This will be the nicest facility ever to host Olympic hockey in America," said Mouser. "It's heads and tails over Lake Placid and Squaw Valley."
Sporting superior sight lines and seamless glass around the ice, the E Center was designed specifically for hockey. The arena, however, has the flexibility to accommodate a variety of different events.
Professional wrestling (WCW's "Monday Nitro Live") will christen the arena Sept. 22 with a live national telecast on cable's TNT. Concerts, ice shows and theatrical productions (a ceiling to floor curtain can create a 6,000-seat amphi-theater) are among other scheduled events at the E Center. A restaurant and banquet facilities can handle weddings, business meetings and banquets.
"There's not a bad seat in this building for anything," said Mouser. "There's no ticket envy. You're in the lower bowl because you want to be, and you're at the club level because you want to be."
Either place, patrons will be reminded of the building's heritage. An image of a hockey goaltender sits on the end of each row of seats in the building, and an 11-foot bronze grizzly bear greets E Center visitors in the arena's spacious lobby.
"One of the things I wanted to do, even though this is going to be a very multifaceted facility, is have people always remember it's for hockey," said Mouser. "If you're here for a concert or something else, you're going to say `Oh yeah, this is where the Grizzlies play.' "
After spending its first three years of existence in basketball arenas (two in the Delta Center and the other at Denver's McNichols Arena), the Grizzlies finally have a den to call their own.
"We are now in charge of our own destiny. Before it was we'd like to do this and we'd like to do that," said Mouser. "This is a great place. I think we accomplished everything we wanted to."
With 8,500 lower bowl and 1,750 club level seats, as well as 40 luxury suites, the E Center can ac-com-modate approximately 10,500 for hockey (and as many as 13,000 for concerts). An abundance of rest rooms and concession areas complement the convenience of 2,300 on-site parking spots. Other extras include a large video wall (as opposed to a center-mount scoreboard like that at the Delta Center), no obstructed views for hockey and service-oriented ticket-takers and ushers.
Players, meanwhile, have direct access to the ice from both the home and visiting locker rooms. The Grizzlies' area features a sauna, whirlpool, a large medical area, spacious locker areas and carpet.
"When a guy walks in this locker room he'll say `This is ours?' " said Mouser. "That's the impression we wanted to send when we designed this facility. We want a situation when a guy is sent up he leaves with mixed feelings because of the fan environment and because of the way the players are treated.
"October 11 when our guys skate onto the ice here, it will be a feeling like they've never had before" he added.
Same goes for the folks in the stands.
"I believe there's a lot of people out there that don't know they are hockey fans," said Mouser. "Our biggest goal and maybe our biggest challenge is to get people through the facility - to have them experience what we know it is."
Dollars and cents
"The big key to our success is revenue streams - tickets, souvenirs, advertising and concessions," said Mouser. "If you take one of those pieces of the puzzle, now you've got a struggle."
At the E Center, the Grizzlies have control of everything but parking. West Valley City will use the revenue ($3 for hockey games) for debt service.
Mouser said the team will have somewhere between 3,500 to 4,000 season ticket holders this season. And as of this week, the Grizz had sold 36 of their 40 luxury suites at $35,000 each.
"Our goal is to sell out every night and maintain the value the seats have," said Mouser. "Based on the success we believe we will have, there's a very bright future for the E Center and the Grizzlies."
Individual game tickets sell for between $16 and $8.
"You can't stay home for $8," quipped Mouser. "UP&L and Mountain Fuel will charge you more than that to stay home."
The other arena
"The Delta Center is a tremendous basketball facility. It's a big arena with a big arena feel," said Mouser. "Whereas, we're a smaller arena. I think each one of us will have our own niche as to what we do well."
Mouser said the E Center will try to emulate its bigger neighbor in terms of cleanliness, which he said sets an industry standard.
"Hopefully the Delta Center is full every night so that the people who would like to book there will have to come to us," said Mouser. "It's a friendly competition. We're all in the same boat to put people in Salt Lake, and to put Salt Lake on the map."
Mouser said the arenas will mean "different things to different people." And until the Grizzlies start selling cars, the two entities are not necessarily competitors.
The Jazz and Grizzlies developed a good relationship during the hockey team's two-year stay at the Delta Center, and Mouser hopes it continues.
"We had tremendous support from the Jazz and the Delta Center while were we there," he said. "They always had a can-do attitude toward us."
Aside from the future addition of 12 more luxury suites and up to 500 club seats, the E Center was not designed for expansion by famed sports architects HOK, which created the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim and Chicago's United Center.
"The only thing any building in the country has on us is seats. And we don't want more seats," said Mouser. "I don't think the old bigger-is-better theory works in this case."
As such, the E Center will likely never house a National Hockey Association franchise. Mouser said as long as the Jazz are around, the Salt Lake market is probably not economically strong enough to support an NHL team and its $25 million annual payroll, anyway.
Arena football, however, is still a possibility.
The Grizzlies have talked with several Arena Football League people, but Mouser said the numbers are "real iffy."
In order to succeed, a football team would need to generate $200,000 of revenue each game. At the E Center, that would mean 10,000 seats sold at an average of $20 per.
"I'm not sure the Wasatch Front community is committed to arena football," said Mouser. "We've looked at it, reviewed it and it's close."
While some existing AFL franchises have contacted Mouser about moving to Utah, none have progressed beyond initial inquiries.
The bottom line?
"I think the only way arena football will be a tremendous success here is if Steve Young is the coach," said Mouser. "If Steve Young is the coach, arena football is a no-brainer."
Cost: $54.1 million
Size: 300,000 square feet
Club seats: 1,750
Hockey seats: 10,500
Event seats: 12,000
Concert seats: 13,000
Theater seats: 3,500 to 7,000
Bose four quadrant full range speaker syste.
80 delay ring speakers
Number of luxury suites: 40
(20 Gold Level and 20 Concourse)
Individual stereo in each
Suite owners have separate entrance and elevators
Distance from arena floor: 22 rows
Suites have food and beverage service.
Cost per suite:*
$50,000 center suite
$40,000 cormer suite
$40,000 center suite
$35,000 corner suite
*3-to-7 year lease
- Arena floor measures 99'x202'
- Scoreboards screen is 4 times the size of the Jumbotron in the Delta Center
- Arena has 136 1000-watt bulbs
- 13 miles of copper tubing in arena floor
- 500 cubic yards of conrete in the arena floor
- 2,300 on-site parking spaces
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Event Center 13,000
Delta Center 22,000
LA Sports Arena 16,150
Access to premium seating.
Gold-level club seating
Access to public seating
Main entrance into grand lobby. Patron must go upstairs to main concourse to reach public seating.
Contains offic space, locker rooms, training rooms, stoarge and mechanics of the arena.