AS THE REALITY of the Salt Palace's final game sinks in, it seems safe to close the attendance books on an arena that hosted more than 12 million hockey and basketball spectators in its 22-season history.
Make that 12,036,439 spectators to be almost exact. That figure includes 5,451,459 for Jazz games in both the regular season and playoffs, 4,735,000 for Golden Eagles hockey games, and 1,850,000 for Utah Stars basketball games.The Jazz figure is exact for the 12 seasons the NBA franchise played in the Salt Palace. The figures for the Golden Eagles, who played in all 22 seasons of the building's existence, and the Stars, who played for five-plus seasons from 1970 through 1975, are estimates.
It works out to about 1,500 spectators for each of the over 8,000 nights the arena was in use. That's not bad for a building a lot of people said was a bad idea, shouldn't be built, and would only drain the taxpayers in the Salt Lake Valley.
HE CAME, HE SAW, HE CAME AGAIN: No one knows for sure who holds the record for the most nights watching sports in the Salt Palace over the past 22 years, but Stan Kouris may own the basketball portion of the title.
Kouris, the owner of Stan's Market in Kearns, started watching the Utah Stars when they arrived in 1970. He watched them until their collapse early in the 1975-76 season, and then, after a three year layoff, picked up where he left off when the Jazz moved to Salt Lake from New Orleans.
In 17-plus seasons of pro basketball in the Salt Palace, Stan's missed less than 40 games. "At the most, maybe two or three a season," he says, "only because of illness, death or my wife threatening divorce."
In the last few years, since the Jazz's rise to social prominence, Kouris has experienced great demand for his four courtside seats. He's got more friends than he's ever had. That's in sharp contrast, he says, to the days when the Jazz weren't a terrific draw.
"In the early years I sometimes took people to the games I didn't even know," he says, "If they came in the store and had on a Jazz shirt, I'd invite them. In the later years, they had to be real good customers."
ONE LOYAL OWNER: As for hockey diehards, few can lay claim to seeing as many Golden Eagles games as Art Teece. Teece owned the Eagles for 15 years, from 1974 until last season, when he sold them to Larry Miller. During that span, he missed maybe a dozen games.
Before he owned the team, he barelymissed any games either; or after. In the Eagles' 22 years, Teece guesses he may have missed 22 games in the Salt Palace, but no more than that.
"The good Lord gave me good health, and a love for hockey," says Teece, 78, who admits he's had withdrawal pains at the Salt Palace's closing.
"I've felt a little remorse," he says, "You can't see that many games in one arena and not feel a letdown, there's no denying that."
But of course he has seats for the new arena. "I've got a lot of games left in me," says Teece, "and the new arena will be good for hockey."
MEANWHILE . . .: While the Salt Palace closes, the Huntsman Center at the University of Utah is still going strong. The Huntsman Center, known in 1969 as the Special Events Center, opened the same year as the Salt Palace.
Unlike the Salt Palace, it hasn't become outdated with age; but, rather, it has seemed to increase in stature. A survey just last year cited the 15,000-seat U. of U. facility as one of the five best basketball arenas in the country
RECORD TIME: Progress on the new Jazz Arena - still looking for a name - is on or ahead of schedule. The building should be completed in time for a Jazz exhibition game, probably with the Lakers, in early October.
If completed on time - and contractors face stiff fines for every hour they go beyond the deadline - contractors say the building will have been constructed eight months quicker than any arena of comparable size ever built in North America.