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.
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