A $62-million plan to renovate the Salt Palace may change directions when Democrats take control of the Salt Lake County Commission in January.
But the facility still is likely to be expanded in an effort to attract more large conventions, according to one of the two Democrats who won commission seats last week."When we're told we're going to lose the revenue of having the Jazz there and then are asked to buy off on a $62 million expansion, we need to look at it closely," said Randy Horiuchi, who narrowly defeated incumbent Commissioner Tom Shimizu. The Jazz basketball franchise will leave the Salt Palace next fall when a new, larger arena is completed nearby.
Horiuchi and fellow Commissioner-elect Jim Bradley both criticized the remodeling project during their campaigns. Because the County Commission has only three seats, the two Democrats will have a majority vote when they take office.
Bradley particularly has been critical of the expansion plans. He was out of town and unavailable for comment this week. Horiuchi, however, said he believes the facility should be expanded, but perhaps not so expensively. He also believes the 12,000-seat Accord Arena may not have to be removed.
"I believe we need to refurbish and make the Salt Palace a more attractive place," he said. "But we need to take a major look at the arena. To tear it down may not be the best thing. Maybe there is some room for a mid-range arena in the valley."
If the arena is to be changed, Horiuchi suggested holding a design competition among local architects.
Present plans call for the remodeling to be funded by a $15 million contribution each from Salt Lake City, the state and Salt Lake County. Supporters are not certain where the rest of the money would come from, but some of it also may come from county revenue sources.
So far, Salt Lake City has discussed using up to $9 million from its redevelopment agency and paying the rest of its share from a possible increase in room taxes, among other ideas. Gov. Norm Bangerter is believed to be including the state's share in his 1991 proposed budget.
But without county support, the plan may be doomed. Horiuchi, however, said he and Bradley are going to be careful about changing the county's direction too drastically when it comes to the Salt Palace and other matters.
"Jim and I are going to take a deep breath with regards to county government," he said. "We've had the same group of leaders here for 10 years. To think there won't be any changes would be naive, but they will be orderly and will be made with the best interests of the county at heart."