The offer of Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller to put up the entire $45 million for a new arena to house the professional basketball team should remove most objections to the project and lay to rest any fears that it would involve a raid on the state treasury.
Under the plan, Miller would come up with funding for a new 18,500 seat arena and Salt Lake City and County would add another $20 million to $25 million to acquire the necessary land and build a 7,500-car parking facility and other infrastructure.With enabling action by the Legislature, the city and county's share could be provided through Salt Lake Redevelopment Agency bonds, to be paid by the agency's revenues. No new taxes would be levied or old taxes increased.
This seems to be the best arrangement for all concerned. It would give the Jazz their new arena, possibly by 1991, at a yet-to-be-named site near the present Salt Palace. This also would keep the Jazz "at home," so to speak, instead of moving outside the city to a suburban location in the county.
Team officials have made it clear that the existing Salt Palace arena, which seats about 12,000 fans, is inadequate for the Jazz needs, since the club needs more income from more fans to meet higher payrolls. The Salt Palace arena is the smallest in the NBA.
The 12-year redevelopment bond plan calls for the city and county to give up their share of property taxes in the redevelopment area to pay off the bonds - a total of about $7.6 million for the county and $8.5 million for the city.
But once the 12-year bond was paid, the city and county would have a steady source of income through leasing the property to the Jazz, as well as increased property taxes because of the new arena. It's a situation where everybody would win.
In order for the plan to work, the Legislature must approve HB390, which provides for the redevelopment agency to participate in the tax revenue financing mechanism. It has received tentative Senate approval, but faces final votes in both houses. That approval should come quickly.
The Jazz are important to Utah - and not merely in a sporting sense. The team brings extremely valuable publicity to the area (one study puts the value at $94,623,557), presents the image of a major-league city instead of a backwater, and is one more factor in a list of important recreation and cultural attractions that sell Utah as a place for business firms to settle.
Other concerns, such as remodeling the Salt Palace, adding 100,000 square feet of convention exhibit space, banquet facilities for 3,000, and additional meeting rooms - a $40 million project - will have to be faced in the future, but that's a different project.
For now, the future home of the Jazz in Salt Lake City seems assured if the Legislature acts promptly, allowing the project to proceed.