While light rail may bring a lot of people into downtown once it's finished, it's pushing out at least one organization: the Utah Arts Festival.
After 15 years at the same location, this summer's festival, in late June, may be the last at the Triad Center. In July, light-rail construction is scheduled to start on South Temple between 300 and 400 West where the heart of the festival, the artists gallery, is located."With the changes that are going on downtown, we think it's prudent not to be caught short, but to be looking forward," said festival Executive Director Robyn Nelson.
The area is getting squeezed in other ways. A large, new inter-modal-transportation hub is being considered near the site as well as an east-west light-rail line. The Boyer Co. will soon develop a large tract west of the Union Pacific Depot that the festival uses for support services.
Nelson noted that should some of those plans change, particularly light rail (though that is unlikely), the festival may stay where it is.
While the search is still preliminary, possible alternative locations include the Gallivan Plaza, Washington Square around the City & County Building, the state Fairpark, Pioneer Park and locations in cities other than Salt Lake City.
A survey of last year's festivalgoers showed 78 percent preferred the Gallivan Plaza as the most desirable alternative location. However, the survey also showed most of them were unaware of the plans to spiff up the Gateway area surrounding Pioneer Park, said festival spokeswoman Cindy Gubler.
Festival organizers are now preparing a request for proposals by which cities can volunteer sites. "If I had my druthers," Nelson said, "I would like us to know (the new location) ideally before this year's festival."
The festival pumps $3.3 million into the local economy each year through patrons staying at hotels, eating meals and making other purchases. Not surprisingly, Salt Lake officials are anxious to keep the festival near its present location.
"I don't think there's any reason (the festival) needs to be locked into one location, but as long as it's downtown it's a good thing," said Downtown Alliance Executive Director Bob Farrington. "There are lots of cities who have their arts festivals right on their main streets."
Festival organizers also have an interest in keeping the new location close.
"Any type of move stands to impact our attendance," Nelson said. As to what degree that might happen, however, "I have no idea."
The festival can't move just anywhere. It's a large, $1.2 million undertaking that requires the new site to have 12,900 parking spaces, utility access and a half million square feet of space for displays, stages, concession stands, support services and myriad other functions.
Sandy recently had to bow out of the running because it didn't have enough parking and overall space between City Hall and the South Towne Center.
"I was kind of surprised," said Sandy spokesman Rick Davis.
If the festival were to move to the Gallivan Plaza, say, the city would have to close off nearby streets to get enough room, much as it does now at the Triad Center.
Wherever it moves, the surveyed patrons last year indicated strongly that they want the new location to have the same character as the Triad Center - all events near each other, plaza and grass.
Triad Center officials said they will be sorry to see the festival go but understand the reasons.
"We're a little ambivalent on both sides," said Dana Baird, Triad Center assistant property manager. "We would like to see them prosper here, but with the light rail coming in . . . "
The festival started in 1974 and was located on Main Street for two years before moving to West Temple and finally to the Triad Center.