Utah is one step away from having an official state centennial license plate.

The State Centennial Commission's license plate committee gave final approval Monday to a design featuring southern Utah's Delicate Arch as the centerpiece with snow-capped mountains and a light blue sky flowing behind the license plate digits.The committee's approval included two slight modifications, however. First, the mountains will be brought higher on the plate to extend above the tops of the digits, and second, the lettering along the bottom spelling out 1896 Centennial 1996 will be enlarged slightly to make it more legible from a distance.

The full commission will vote on the design Friday at noon.

Monday's meeting was in stark contrast to a meeting three weeks ago when the committee rejected the first renderings of the multicolored plate that will be made available for voluntary purchase by Utah motorists beginning Jan. 2, 1992.

Committee members categorically rejected the initial rendering, which featured a gold-colored drawing of Rainbow Bridge with rolling hills in the back ground. The drawing conjured up images of the golden arches in front of most McDonalds fast-food restaurants, prompting a series of Big Mac jokes.

The reworked plate, by contrast, was an instant hit. The light blue sky offered an excellent counterpoint to the yellow-gold arch without detracting from the navy-blue lettering. After spending several minutes inside comparing various versions with slightly different hues of yellow-gold, the committee marched out to the parking lot and placed them one at a time on a white station wagon to get a "real world" perspective.

It took just a matter of minutes to pick the finalist.

And if a one-person straw poll is a barometer, the selection will hold up.

As the committee stood back admiring the winning plate, a man in a blue car pulled up, gazed at the plate momenPlease see LICENSE on A2

tarily, and then flashed the thumbs up sign before driving away.

Motorists will pay an extra $25 for the plate initially and will be required to pay an additional $10 yearly to keep the plate over the next five years. Current legislation requires the plate to be phased out by Dec. 31, 1997.

After deducting the printing cost for the plates, the bulk extra fee will go to the Utah Centennial Commission to help finance the state centennial activities scheduled to climax on Jan. 4, 1996, the state's 100th birthday. Counties will keep a portion of the fee for each vehicle registered in the county to pay for local centennial activities.

Rick Leimbach, state Motor Vehicle Department director, said the state may opt to follow Idaho's lead and keep the plate as the official state license plate after 1997. However, that would require action by the Legislature.