I was at the Sandy Amphitheater Friday night watching Elton John, Rod Stewart, Stevie Wonder, Buddy Holly, Nat King Cole, Willie Nelson, Michael Jackson, Robert Plant, Axl Rose and the BeeGees perform under the stars ...

... Actually, it was entertainer Jason Hewlett being all of the above, and several others, which explains how so many legendary performers, some of them dead, happened to wind up on a converted gravel hill in Sandy, how they were able to all arrive in the same car, why they only needed one trailer among them and why it only cost $11 (lawn seating) to see them.

The relatively low ticket price — less than three gallons of gas! — also reflected the fact that the Sandy Amphitheater is owned and operated by Sandy city, a place that believes in putting your tax dollars to both work and play.

Down the hill to the west from the amphitheater is the new Real Salt Lake soccer stadium, just months from completion, while down the hill to the south is the 12-acre site projected to house the $500 million Proscenium (a Greek word that means "before the scene"), a development that ambitiously includes three 30-story towers intended to house condos, office space and a 2,400-seat Broadway-style theater.

Unlike the amphitheater, the soccer stadium and proposed Proscenium are a mixture of private and public funding. But like the amphitheater, they couldn't happen without city-owned property assistance and plenty of public tax incentives.

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The question of just how much a government should provide for its citizens is older than we are, but that doesn't mean it's yet been definitively or even adequately answered.

Paved roads, drinkable water, a fire department and a police force? Almost everyone would check yes. And you won't get much argument about a sewer system and parks.

But sports stadiums and theaters?

Or how about one and not the other? As is the current case in Salt Lake City, where the RSL soccer stadium was recently rejected — Sandy got it by default — but where the new theater-loving mayor is leading the charge for a city-owned 2,500-seat facility projected to cost slightly more than $80 million.

I thought about that as I reclined on the grass Friday night and enjoyed the Jason Hewlett show along with about 3,000 others, all of us being subsidized by thousands of good Sandy taxpayers who were there even though they weren't there, sort of like Elton John.


Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to [email protected] and faxes to 801-237-2527.