With $1B stadium subsidy for NHL and NBA approved, all eyes turn to the Salt Palace

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Salt Lake City is working with county leaders and Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith on a plan that could connect the Delta Center and a newly built entertainment district to the east with the core of Downtown, multiple sources told Building Salt Lake.

No deal has been finalized, but the parties are looking at using land that’s currently home to the north and west sides of the Salt Palace to create a new, east-west running festival street surrounded by new development that would serve as a new entertainment district.

The work could reorient two city blocks, including removing the barrier created by the Salt Palace that divides the west edge of Downtown from the city’s core to the east.

Sources familiar with the talks say all eyes are now on a framework that could pull the region’s premier convention center and Japantown into the effort to keep the Jazz and a future National Hockey League team anchored Downtown.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity to outline complex and fluid discussions.

The details fill in some of the gaps Smith left when he released a high-level rendering showing a rebuilt Delta Center as a home to the Jazz and NHL team. They show that the city, county, state and Smith are all working in lockstep to cement Downtown Salt Lake City as the current and future home of professional sports.

The details indicate the image is of a rebuilt Delta Center, looking west from a mid-block promenade that could be built at around 50 South, land that’s currently home to the Salt Palace.

The Utah Legislature approved SB272 on Friday, the final day of the 45-day legislative session. The bill sets up a framework for Salt Lake City to raise its sales tax by up to 0.5 percent to pay to rebuild the Delta Center and help to create an entertainment district on up to 100 acres nearby.

The bill, effectively a $1 billion subsidy for a billionaire to keep his current and future billion-dollar teams in the city, received support from Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson and Smith.

“There’s a lot of work ahead of us, and we’re thrilled to have this seminal opportunity to partner together to reimagine the downtown experience — to create a comprehensive, visionary plan that generates a vibrant, safe, and fully activated downtown,” the trio said in a statement.

“With Utah Jazz games, the latest Broadway shows, world-renowned concerts, global events and the opportunity to attract the Olympics and NHL, the downtown experience will serve as the state’s anchor for arts, culture, sports and entertainment,” they said.

Salt Lake City’s Downtown street grid is broken at 100 South by the Salt Palace. Reorienting the massive convention center is now part of discussions that include rebuilding the Delta Center for NBA and NHL.

Salt Lake County owns roughly 30 acres of land that include the Salt Palace, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art and Abravanel Hall. Abravanel is due to be renovated soon, and this could be an opportunity to change its orientation, as well.

Removing the north and west sides of the Salt Palace could help to reconnect the city’s street grid at 100 South while making space for the new mid-block promenade and other developments that were included in Smith’s rendering.

The county sold land to Portman Holdings, which then built the Hyatt Regency hotel on the corner of 200 South West Temple. That also means any reorientation of the Salt Palace would likely maintain its existing 200 South frontage and connection with the hotel.

Sources said the discussions don’t necessarily involve selling county land to Smith. It could instead set up a long-term lease with Smith and other investors.

It’s not yet clear what role, if any, the LDS Church might play in such discussions. The church told Fox13 News it was supportive of the work to keep pro sports Downtown, but it doesn’t have immediate plans to do anything with its 10-acre surface parking lot north of South Temple.

The city has made it clear it wants to include members of the Japanese-American community in the discussions, as the creation of the convention center and other development decades ago tore into the fabric of a once thriving Japantown.

Remnants of Japantown still exist today along 100 South, and Jani Iwamoto, a representative for the community and former state legislator, said they aren’t going anywhere.

“We’ve been here over 100 years and we’re not moving,” Iwamoto said.

Email Taylor Anderson

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Posted by Taylor Anderson

Taylor Anderson grew up near Chicago and made his way West to study journalism at the University of Montana. He's been a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, Bend Bulletin and Salt Lake Tribune. A move from Portland, Oregon, to Salt Lake City opened his eyes to the importance of good urban design for building strong neighborhoods. He lives on the border of the Liberty Wells and Ballpark neighborhoods.