Gov. Norm Bangerter is urging civic leaders to think big as they meet to consider whether to build a new arena for the Utah Jazz, an Olympic-size speed skating rink and expanded convention space.
Bangerter was one of several government leaders Wednesday who showed strong support for plans unveiled this week. Salt Lake County leaders said they will appoint a committee, made up of government and business leaders, to draft detailed plans by the end of summer."I think we very seldom think too big," Bangerter told more than 100 people who crammed into a room at the county-owned Salt Palace for the official announcement of the proposal, which has been widely reported in the media this week.
Bangerter said the 19-year-old Salt Palace has been a good investment despite the criticism it generated in the beginning. He urged the county to seek private funding for construction.
"I hope (he study) will culminate in some additional facilities being built," he said.
Salt Lake City Mayor Palmer DePaulis said the new facilities could help revitalize the city's economically stagnant downtown. Without a new arena, the Jazz may move to the suburbs or out of state, an idea DePaulis said is unthinkable. The 12,444-seat Salt Palace will be the smallest arena in the National Basketball Association next season.
With the new arena, the Jazz could earn more money while the city could attract an NBA all-star game or an NCAA Final Four tournament, supporters said. An arena could be built in time for the 1991 basketball season.
Although county leaders believe a 25,000-seat stadium and extra convention space could cost $60 million, they said taxpayers would not be asked to pay the bill. The group studying the proposal will be charged with finding a creative way to raise the money.
Civic leaders hope to capitalize on community enthusiasm for the Jazz, which just completed its most successful season in franchise history.
The Olympic-size skating rink would provide the U.S. Winter Olympic team with a needed training site. The rink also might help the state attract the Winter Games and could also be used as an equestrian park.
If an arena is built, the Salt Palace still will be in daily use, accommodating conventions, ice hockey, concerts and other shows, county officials said. Many concerts and conventions currently bypass Salt Lake City because the Salt Palace is booked.
The plans, which county officials say are nothing more than vague concepts, also include switching locations of the Hansen Planetarium and the Arts Center and building an Imax-type theater. The theater could attract 1.5 million visitors a year, said Salt Lake County Commission Chairman Bart Barker.
The state and county fairs also may be moved to the Salt Palace, Barker said.