After selling out 39 of 41 home games during the recent regular season, the Jazz are still considering several sites in Salt Lake Valley for a potential new arena. But president David Checketts said, "We've never gotten serious about any of them."
If new arenas open as scheduled next season, the 12,444-seat Salt Palace will be the smallest in the 25-city NBA. The new collective bargaining agreement between NBA players and owners calls for team payrolls to reach $11 million by 1993-94, and the Jazz will need more revenue to compete. "We just can't survive in a small arena," Checketts said.Checketts is waiting for owner Larry Miller to direct him to find more seats, either by seeking an expansion of the Salt Lake County-owned Salt Palace or by building a new arena, while public and private developers continue to propose arena sites around the valley, ranging from 106th South to the state fairgrounds.
Checketts said his first step following Miller's go-ahead would be to meet with county officials, but he noted, "I'm sure they would come to the same conclusion, that a remodeling of the Salt Palace would not be an alternative. But we've kept them fully appraised of our plans, and we haven't said we'll leave; we just have to find something that works."
The Jazz have 11 years left on their Salt Palace lease that was renegotiated in 1986, but the lease's buyout clause is minimal. Checketts said earlier this year that he figured the Jazz could average 17,000 in attendance in the first season of a larger arena, seating between 18,000 and 19,000. Miller said the test of the size of the team's fan base would come next year, when ticket prices reportedly will be raised and fewer season-ticket discounts will be offered.
An indication may also come this week during the NBA playoffs. The Jazz sold out none of their three home playoff games last season and one of two the previous year.