The Salt Palace expansion task force has until Oct. 31 to determine what facilities are needed, how much they will cost, how they should be managed and how construction and operation can be funded without raising taxes.
The 15-member task force, which consists of Salt Lake business, civic and political leaders, was created to study the feasibility of building expanded convention facilities and a new downtown arena for the Utah Jazz. They will report their findings to the Salt Lake County Commission.The time schedule for the feasibility study and the specific duties of the group and its committees were outlined Wednesday during the first meeting of the Salt Palace Expansion Feasibility Task Force.
The task force was formed after state and local government leaders last month called for expansion of existing downtown convention facilities and for a larger arena to house the Jazz - developments that could take three years and cost as much as $60 million.
Development of such facilities would provide an economic boost for the area by allowing Salt Lake City to compete in booking large conventions with other cities which now can boast more spacious convention facilities.
County Commission chairman Bart Barker told task force members the Salt Lake area stands to miss out on up to $2 million in lost revenues that would have been generated by conventions that have canceled or may cancel Salt Palace bookings because of inadequate space.
"(Without expansion) we will be less and less able to compete for conventions. But there's no reason why we can't be competitive," Barker said.
The Jazz, which next season will play in the smallest arena in the National Basketball Association, are also pressing for a larger home than the 12,444-seat Salt Palace. Downtown merchants want to keep the franchise in the central city instead of seeing it move to a suburban arena.
"The Jazz are really pushing against our time schedule," Barker told the task force. "We're working on the shortest schedule that can be pursued."
But despite the time limits, the committee must consider all possible options, including controversial ones like locating the State Fair in a downtown facility. There are a number of ways the needs of the Jazz can be met, and no decisions on building a new arena will be made until a thorough study has been done, Barker said.
Under a plan accepted by the task force, an options committee chaired by attorney Larry Lunt will explore and recommend by Aug. 31 which programs and services should be provided by an expanded Salt Palace and which are needed to provide those services.
A costs committee, chaired by developer David Richards, will then recommend locations and facilities that can accommodate the options committee recommendations and estimate development costs. That report is due to be delivered to the task force by Sept. 30.
A finance committee, chaired by Kenneth Knight, senior vice president of Sinclair Oil, then will propose methods to pay for construction and operation of the facilities recommended by the costs committee.
A management committee, chaired by Richard Galbraith, chairman of the Salt Palace and Fine Arts Advisory Board, will recommend how the facilities should be managed. The deadline for both those reports is Oct. 15.
The task force may hire one or more consultants to assist with the study, which may cost up to $300,000. The study is being funded by the county.