Moving the state fair to a downtown location will not be among the preliminary recommendations made by a committee examining options for an expanded arena complex to house the Utah Jazz.
But the committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a recommendation that an 18,500-seat downtown arena be provided for the state's only major league sports franchise. Whether that facility should be an expanded Salt Palace or a new arena was not addressed by the recommendation.The recommendations took shape during a meeting of the Concepts and Options Committee of a task force appointed by Salt Lake county commissioners to study whether a new larger home for the Jazz should be built.
The concepts committee, one of four committees working under the task force, made the recommendations based on testimony taken during three public hearings last week, and on written comments received.
The committee is responsible only for recommending what services should be provided by a downtown arena complex and what facilities are needed to provide those services.
Three other task force committees will address other related issues, including how the facilities should be configured, where they will be located, how they should be managed - and if a new arena is built - how construction and operation can be funded without a tax increase.
The options committee will draft its recommendations into a report that must be submitted to the task force by Aug. 31. Included among those recommendations are:
- The Salt Palace should remain the home of the Jazz, and an arena of at least 18,500 seats should be provided for Jazz fans. If a new arena is built, it should be designed to conveniently allow future expansion to add more seats.
- More exhibit space, meeting rooms and a banquet hall should be provided to improve Salt Lake's convention hosting facilities. Existing convention facilities in the Salt Palace should be upgraded.
- Adequate area for education and exhibition of visual and performing arts should be included in the downtown complex.
- A science center and children's science museum should be housed with the Hansen Planetarium and an IMAX-type theater with a 75-foot-tall screen in a "science community" as part of the downtown complex.
- Adequate facilities for parking, mass transit and landscaping should be emphasized, and consideration should be given to downtown neighbors of the complex.
The committee discussed, but did not vote on a proposal by committee member David W. Adams, executive director of the state's Department of Community and Economic Development, to recommend that an Olympic-size speed skating oval be built as part of the complex.
While committee members quickly agreed that the Jazz need a bigger venue, they intensely debated the issue of moving the state fair. The fair's board of directors strongly opposes such a move, and claims the backing of Gov. Norm Bangerter.
Committee member Wayne Evans, senior vice president of Evans Advertising, proposed that the committee recommend the state delay the awarding of a $3 million contract to renovate the Exhibition Building at the state fairgrounds until Oct. 31, when the task force must submit its final report on a downtown arena complex to county commissioners.
Bids on that fairgrounds contract are scheduled for opening Thursday. Committee members supporting Evans' proposal argued that awarding the contract is tantamount to locking in a decision to keep the fair at its current 10th W. North Temple location. More study is needed before such a decision is made final, they said.
But the Evans proposal was defeated by a single vote and will not be included in the committee's report, an apparent victory for the state fair board.
While the options committee was not asked to recommend whether a new arena should be built, its recommendations for new and expanded sports, convention, arts and science facilities - all located in a downtown complex - cannot be housed in the Salt Palace complex seem to be a de facto recommendation for a new arena complex, which has been estimated to cost between $30 million and $60 million.