Upon the occasion of their 104th consecutive Salt Palace sellout last night - punctuated by a 111-103 win over the New Jersey Nets - Jazz Owner Larry H. Miller said that, yes, the old Salt Palace has been good to him, but, also yes, its days are truly numbered.
The completion date for the Jazz's new arena is Oct. 4, 1991 - well in time to host next year's season - and Miller was happy to say that believe it or not construction is on schedule."Hump day is next Wednesday," said Miller. "And all things considered, yes, we are on schedule."
"I don't think I have an ulcer yet," said Miller. "I don't know what one feels like since I've never had one. But I suppose if I was going to get one, it would be this season."
"I try to treat the arena like I do the team," Miller continued. "I try not to get distraught over every little thing and just look at the finished project."
The new arena will have a basketball capacity of approximately 20,400 seats. Almost 3,000 will be in 56 luxury suites ranging in price from $40,000 to $95,000.
Already, 40 of the suites have been sold, mostly to
assorted businesses, law firms, and anyone else smart enough to know how to use them as tax write-offs.
"We don't think that's too bad considering it's only been the last three or fours weeks people have even been able to go in the arena and have any kind of idea what they're actually buying," said Tim Howells, the Jazz's general manager.
Also, Howells said 1,700 priority numbers have been sold to prospective season ticket buyers in the new area. A priority number ensures the opportunity to select season seats after the 11,300 season ticket olders in the Salt Palace exercise their options.
Still three days from hump day, and eight months from completion, and a minimum of 13,000 seats in the new arena are already subleased. Or 384 more than the Salt Palace's 12,616 capacity.
The new arena is still unnamed. Howells said the Jazz are open to any suggestions and will name it after virtually anyone - for the right price.
"We'd love to have someone call and allow us to name it along the order of the Great Western Forum (in Los Angeles) or the Arco Arena (in Sacramento)," said Howells, in reference to two NBA arenas named after big donor sponsors.
He said if an individual - someone like, say, James Sorensen - wanted the arena named after him, the Jazz would find that to be no problem.
Asked if Miller would care if the $66 million building he built were named after someone or something else, Howells said, "Yeah, he'd care. He'd care to the extent he'd love to have it happen."
The Jazz play 17 more regular season games this year in the Salt Palace - all of them anticipated sellouts - and that, in addition to however long the playoffs last, will be it.
The Nets, for one, won't shed any tears. Their loss last night was their ninth in the last 11 years. It wasn't as bad as last season, when they lost by 37 points in a 105-68 game. It wasn't as bad as any of the past four seasons, when their average deficit was 25 points. But it was a loss nonetheless as the Jazz improved their home record to 20-4 and their overall record to 30-15.
The Jazz are now within one game of last year's record pace. They were 31-14 after 45 games a year ago. The '89-90 team was only 8-12 on the road and 23-2 at the 45-game point, however. This team is 10-11 on the road.
"We're selfish, we'd like to have four or five more wins," said Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan, "But I still say the first part of the season was tough on us, and we've been catching up. I honestly think they're (the players) at a point where they'd like a couple of days off."
They were not off last night. The Jazz shot 58.3 percent, 10 percentage points above their average.
For the Nets, it was business as usual. They'd seen it before. For their annual visit to Salt Lake next year, they will not be unhappy to see a new building. Any new building. Put them down for priority seating.