SALT LAKE CITY — A high school senior from southern Idaho and his mentor had an idea. They saw a need to get Utah Jazz fans from Idaho to EnergySolutions Arena.
Their solution was a slam dunk.
At 2 p.m. on the days the Jazz play at home, fans board a big luxury motor coach in Idaho Falls. For $69 a game or $79 for the big games with marquee teams like the Los Angeles Lakers or the Miami Heat, fans get a ticket and a round-trip ride to EnergySolutions Arena.
"It's really cool, actually," said Landon Belnap, a senior at Bonneville High School in Idaho Falls.
"When I pulled up … and saw the line waiting to get on the bus, it was a great feeling,” he said. “It was exciting to see it go from this idea as a senior project to real-life happening."
The Idaho Jazz Bus idea was a dual effort by Belnap and his mentor, businessman Owen Hamilton, who's wanted to start up a business like this for several years.
"(I said,) ‘I've had this idea for a few years. Let's partner and do something together and do something big for your senior project — (something) that's substantial instead of something that's easy and will just get you by,'" Hamilton said.
The idea behind the project is to help students grow and learn and be prepared for real life. Belnap had to meet with several people, including attorneys and accountants, and set up a small business and a website idahojazzbus.com.
The two spent the past summer finding sponsors, advertisers and the big bus, which came complete with Wi-Fi and a restroom. Then they bought 50 season tickets.
"The people who ride on the bus actually get the benefit of a season ticket holder," Hamilton said. "They can show their ticket at concession stands and get discounts that the season ticket holders get."
The Idaho Jazz Bus has made only a handful of trips so far, but the idea is catching on.
Belnap admits he wasn't a huge Jazz fan when this all started, though he's fast becoming one. For him, it's about the learning experience.
"Through this I've learned how to interact with different people, how to be professional, how to make negotiations, and how to be a business person," he said.
The project was not part of a class, but was a graduation requirement. "I'm pretty sure it's just pass/fail," Belnap said, "and I think we've got a pass going."
"If he chooses to stay with the Idaho Jazz Bus and it becomes a full-on business that we do for years, that's incredible," Hamilton said. "If not, hopefully he learned things he can take with him, life values, professional values and business opportunities that he can carry on and be successful in whatever he does."