Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis isn't going to point fingers at anyone for forgetting that gatherings without reserved seating at the Salt Palace are illegal or for failing to enforce the law before three teenagers died at a rock concert last month.
What he wants is to make sure the tragedy never happens again."Our job now is to look at this ordinance and see if there should be any exemptions at all," he said.
The City Council passed an ordinance in 1982 that outlawed so-called festival seating, in which people with general-admission tickets are allowed to roam freely on the arena floor at the Salt Palace. The idea was to prevent the kind of tragedy that occured at a concert in Cincinnati when 11 people were trampled to death.
But the practice started again at the Salt Palace during the mid-1980s and was being used when three teenagers were trampled to death by a surging crowd during a concert Jan. 18.
After the tragedy, City Council Chairman Tom Godfrey asked the city attorney to draft an ordinance outlawing festival seating. He was told the city already had one.
Godfrey said it appears the ordinance failed because of a lack of communication.
"My question would be, once the ordinance was passed, how was that conveyed to the county?" he said. "This has just raised all kinds of questions in my mind."
City officials believe Salt Lake County, which owns the Salt Palace, or the concert's promoter should have approached the city and asked for an exemption to the ordinance. Otherwise, the city had no idea festival seating was being used.
The county said the promoter, United Concerts, should have asked for the exemption. United Concerts officials have refused to comment.
A committee has been assigned to study changes that need to be made as a result of the deaths. But DePaulis wants the committee to avoid dwelling too much on festival seating. "I want to see a comprehensive plan," he said. "One that considers not just festival seating, but other issues."
Those issues include the proper numbers of security guards, the amount of free movement allowed in the arena and the way emergencies are handled, he said.
Whatever comes of the committee, DePaulis wants to make sure the county and all other interested parties are involved in any changes.
DePaulis said the city probably would have granted an exemption to its 1982 ordinance if the county or the promoter had asked for one. "Now, we can point to a tragedy. But before this happened, if we had denied them an exemption people would have said the city's being unreasonable."