Saying that a renovated Salt Palace will result in a $539 million cumulative benefit to the state and create 7,100 new jobs within six years of completion, the board of governors of the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Tuesday reaffirmed its support of the remodeling project.
But, in giving their support, the board members stressed that it will take a massive selling job to persuade the public to support the Salt Palace remodeling project, especially among those who feel there are critical needs elsewhere.The reaffirmation came following a presentation from members of the Convention Center Modernization Committee, the chamber's Salt Palace Education Subcommittee and the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau who said that several conventions have canceled in recent months because the convention center no longer meets their needs.
As an example, committee chairman Truman Clawson distributed copies of a letter from Thomas C. Clark, manager of meetings and conventions for the Society of Cardiovascular Anesthesiologists.
"I just wish the Salt Palace was in better shape, for I'm sure you're losing meetings you should have to Denver, Seattle, etc. We would have no hesitation in meeting in Salt Lake if the Palace were the equivalent of Denver's or Seattle's Convention Center," Clark wrote.
"The rates are great, the people are fabulous, the food is superb and the main hotels are upscale," Clark said, but in fairness to the society he isn't certain he can wait until February 1991 to make a decision on the 1995 convention.
February is important because by then, proponents of the Salt Palace expansion hope the Legislature will have appropriated $30 million for the project with Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County contributing $15 million each. Clawson said sales of conventions have increased five-fold in recent years since the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau was privatized, but officials have been told by several consulting firms the Salt Palace is "outdated and tired."
Rick Davis, president of the convention and visitors bureau, showed some slides depicting a decline in convention business in the 1990s if the Salt Palace isn't renovated. He said Salt Lake City is the only Western city which hasn't completed new convention facilities or has some under construction.
If a decision to remodel the Salt Palace isn't made quickly, 1990 will be a pivotal year because the amount of "outside" money coming to Utah via conventions and meetings will begin to decline, Davis said.
Thayne Robson, chairman of the convention and visitors bureau and director of the University of Utah Bureau of Business and Economic Research, said the accounting firm of Coopers and Lybrand has affirmed the figures of $539 million in cumulative benefits to the state and creation of thousands of new jobs.
Robson said travel and tourism contributes $1 billion annually to the Salt Lake economy and conventions and tourism provide 29,000 local jobs with an annual payroll of $417 million.
Quenton Wells, president of the Sandy Chamber of Commerce, said many Sandy residents are apprehensive about supporting the Salt Palace renovation, believing their tax money should go to critical needs in that community.
John Scowcroft, chairman of the Salt Palace Education Subcommittee, said his group will take a slide program to all of the communities in Salt Lake County is an attempt to demonstrate that all Utahns will benefit from the renovation project.
Fred H. Rollins, district marketing director for Delta Air Lines, said his company has been concentrating a good portion of its effort in selling Utah to tourists and convention planners, but with the outdated Salt Palace facilities the marketing program could backfire.