A new 18,500-seat arena for Salt Lake City's professional sports franchises should be built on a block bounded by South Temple, First South, Third West and Fourth West, a locations committee recommended Friday.
And reflecting a bargaining concession by the Utah Jazz, the group recommended the new structure be a multipurpose arena that will accommodate hockey, large rock concerts and other events, as well as professional basketball.The committee chose the site, just south of the Triad center, over three others because of its easy access to the I-15 freeway and the availability of nearby parking.
The recommended location may put the committee, composed of citizens and interested parties working with a task force appointed to study a new arena, at odds with paid consultants who have proposed four sites, including two near Fourth South and West Temple.
But the committee's work represents only preliminary recommendations that could be overruled by the task force in its final report, or rejected by Salt Lake County commissioners, who will make the final decision on construction of any new arena.
Also included in the locations committee's recommendations:
-Expansion of existing Salt Palace convention facilities, including an additional 100,000 square feet of exhibit space, a 30,000-square-foot ballroom and 10 new meeting rooms that would seat 100 people each, to the west along First South.
-Construction of a science center complex, including a relocated Hansen Planetarium, a children's museum and a special-effects movie theater with a 60-foot-high screen, on West Temple south of the Salt Lake Arts Center.
-A long-term study of the feasibility of using the proposed new facilities for future Winter Olympic events and for housing the state fair and the Salt Lake County fair.
One issue the committee did not address was the estimated cost to implement the recommendations. A separate finance committee is working on the funding possibilities for the construction and operation of any new arena complex.
Preliminary cost estimates have put the price tag for a new arena between $50 million and $60 million and around $30 million for the convention facilities expansion. Officials hope private-sector financing can be found to build the science center.
County commissioners have pledged there will be no tax hikes to pay for a new arena or related facilities, and costs will be the overriding factor in determining what facilities are built, if any.
Dave Checketts, Jazz president and general manager and a locations committee member, supported the committee recommendations. Checketts originally had pushed for an arena that would be used only for basketball. But the Jazz play only about 50 homes games annually, and economic reality forced Checketts to accept a multiuse facility.
"To make (a new arena) work, it has to be built for more than basketball," Checketts said. "I don't see this as a giant concession. But it is an important one. You have to draw enough events to pay the bills."
But Checketts got the committee to agree to give basketball courtside seating preference in the design of a new arena. The team needs more seats - and especially more top-dollar courtside seats - it can sell tickets for.
The annual payroll for the Jazz is expected to double over the next five years to more than $10 million because of a new labor contract between the NBA and its players union.
"For a good long time it's going to be basketball that pays the rent" on a new arena, Checketts said. "If we don't move on this quickly, we can't do it. If you watch the news, every day you see players asking for more money. If we want an NBA championship here, we have to build a new arena."