Reacting to the recent trampling deaths of three teenagers at a rock concert, the Salt Lake City Council is taking the first step toward outlawing festival seating, the chairless arrangement that has been common at the Salt Palace.
Council Chairman Tom Godfrey doesn't want to wait until the Salt Lake County attorney finishes a criminal investigation into the deaths at a Jan. 18 AC/DC concert."The bottom line is we have to have a tool to protect people," Godfrey said Monday. "This is a common-sense thing. You can't have thousands of people on the floor pushing and shoving."
He is scheduled to ask the rest of the council Tuesday night to support him in requesting the city attorney draft such a law. He is not sure about the details, but he wants to make sure outdoor concerts and other less dangerous events are not affected.
Once a law has been drafted, the city will hold a public hearing before deciding whether to adopt it.
Many have blamed the deaths on festival seating, in which people with general admission tickets were allowed to roam freely on the arena floor. The three victims were crushed when the crowd surged toward the stage.
Some have defended festival seating, saying concertgoers break seats or throw them out of the way. Godfrey, who teaches English at Hillcrest High School, said some of his students were at the concert.
"I'd rather have broken chairs than broken kids," he said. "Somebody's got to be aware of what's going on. Kids think they're immortal at that age."
Spectacor, the company that manages the Salt Palace, has decided temporarily to abandon festival seating pending the outcome of the investigation.
Meanwhile, County Attorney Dave Yocom held a closed-door briefing with county commissioners Monday to update them on the investigation. He pledged to hold a press conference later this week.
Yocom said investigators have interviewed more than 50 people. Some investigators flew to Memphis to interview members of AC/DC.
He said his personal opinion is that festival seating should be stopped, although he did not say whether the investigation will lead to that conclusion. "No one can adequately protect against danger in that situation," he said.
He said the investigation will not place blame. "We will find out the facts and present them to the public."
Although families of the victims have yet to file lawsuits, Yocom said he expects them to soon. "We fully expect there'll be action filed against all the parties involved," he said.
Yocom said he does not believe it is a conflict of interest for him to be investigating the tragedy. If the county is sued, it will be represented by an outside attorney hired by its insurance carrier.