Expansion of the Salt Palace will ensure that Salt Lake City can compete with other Western cities for conventions that bring millions of dollars to the Utah economy, according to the director of the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Rick Davis said 10 of the 15 cities Salt Lake City competes against for convention business are building new facilities and Salt Lake City must keep up or lose some of the larger conventions to those areas.He said the bureau has been studying the need of more convention space and cited a recent situation when American Gas Association officials informed Davis they would need more space than when the convention was first booked. Davis said he and his staff are studying if more space can be found and must report to the association in September.

"If we can't give them the additional space, the convention will go elsewhere," Davis told those attending the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Leadership Utah session.

Davis talked about recent concepts to increase the amount of Salt Palace exhibit space and build a new arena for basketball and hockey, saying it will take extensive study to determine what final plan will be the best for the area. He said one of the ideas is to build a new arena one block west of the present Salt Palace and expand the exhibit space south and west of the Salt Palace.

To pay for the proposed expansion, Davis said one idea is to have the Salt Lake Redevelopment Agency purchase land and install the utilities. Another idea is to have the private sector pay for the new arena.

A third concept is to continue the bonding that is expected to expire in 1995 from the Salt Palace improvements made in 1983. More study will be needed, but now it appears that property taxes won't have to be increased for the expansion, Davis said.