Naming a site for a new Utah Jazz arena could be postponed until April 11 so the Salt Lake Redevelopment Agency - charged with selecting one of two proposed arena sites - can review more information, the agency's chairwoman said.
But stalling the decision won't occur without some debate because at least one RDA board member doesn't want to keep Jazz owner Larry Miller and others waiting any longer.The RDA is scheduled to hear comments from the public at a Thursday night meeting and was expected to name one of two sites - one in the northern section of downtown, the other in the southern section - as the new home for the Jazz. But Chairwoman Florence Bittner said the RDA, whose board of directors is the City Council, may need more time to study a report by the arena's architects released only Tuesday.
"I think there's a very good possibility it will be postponed until Tuesday," Bittner said, adding that the council could convene as the RDA in a special session to make the final decision.
"We haven't seen the complete report, and this could have a lot of information we haven't seen yet," she said.
The report, however, could be read in 15 minutes, said Councilwoman Sydney Fonnesbeck. "I don't need more time. I want to make a decision tonight (Thursday). We've been keeping too many people waiting too long."
The architects, Fowler Ferguson Kigston & Ruben, reviewed their report at a public hearing before the city Planning Commission and presented a vague endorsement of the proposed northern site A.
Site A on Block 79 is bound by South Temple, First South, Third West and Fourth West streets. Site B on Block 50 in the southern downtown area is bordered by Third South, Fourth South, West Temple and Second West streets.
"I think there are some advantages" to site A, said FFK&R partner Frank Ferguson following the public hearing Tuesday at which the Planning Commission endorsed southern site B.
A lower water table at site A would permit an arena located there to be partially underground, reducing the facility's height by 45 feet, a more aesthetic quality, FFK&R told the commission.
Additionally, there would be no relocation costs at site A if businesses were condemned to make way for arena, FFK&R said. Relocation would cost $275,000 at site B, the architects said.
Some developers have said site A has already been chosen for the new arena. Miller has said he personally favors site A.
However, Bittner said the decision over the two sites still "could go either way." Other council members have changed their minds more than once just this week on which site is favored, she said.
The RDA has said it wants to adhere to a schedule that would permit Miller to break ground on the facility in June and complete the arena by the 1991-92 basketball season.
Arena decisions have been made on a fast track, but Bittner said a postponement won't affect an expedited calendar. "I don't think a weekend, essentially, is going to make much of a difference."
What's more, Bittner said Miller has already approved a delay. "He told me he can live with that just fine."
Meanwhile, a group of business owners with property on Block 50, the site endorsed by the Planning Commission, rallied to dissuade the RDA from choosing their block, threatening lawsuits if they do.
"We will fight as long and hard as we can," said Russell Sonntag, owner of Primrose Sonntag, a distributorship on site B. He and other business owners called reporters Wednesday to express their anger over the commission's decision.
The Jazz has said it needs a larger arena to sell more tickets to cover an increased payroll that will increase annually under an NBA labor agreement.
The RDA scheduled a public meeting for Thursday to hear comments from citizens to begin shortly after 4 p.m. in the City Council Chambers on the third floor of City Hall, 324 S. State St.