Utah leaders, Ryan Smith meet with NHL commissioner on bringing team to Utah

Jan 29, 2024, 8:42 PM | Updated: Jan 30, 2024, 6:31 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — On the same day the Utah Senate unanimously passed a resolution to bring an NHL franchise to the Beehive State, Gov. Spencer Cox, Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith, the House speaker, Senate president and the sponsors of some legislation centered around the NHL were all on hand for a virtual meeting with the league’s commissioner, Gary Bettman. 

“It was a very productive meeting,” said Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, who spoke exclusively to KSL TV afterward. 

“Ryan and Ashley have done well in telling Utah’s story to the NHL. And it was great to hear (the NHL) acknowledge that they know that Utah is on the map and they’re very interested,” McCay said. “But for the most part, it was us trying to tell the story of why Utah would be a great home for the NHL.”

McCay said it’s still not known if the NHL is expanding or will make Utah the home of an existing franchise – that is if they decide to come here.  

“It is unknown. Really. What we’re trying to just do is just put our hand up and say, you know, if you have an opportunity, we’re interested,” he said. 

A new arena? 

One thing that was discussed, McCay said, was the need for great partners and a place to play. 

McCay said that the Delta Center isn’t ideal for hockey because of its seating setup and the Maverik Center doesn’t have enough seats. 

“I think what you what you would likely see is if an NHL team was assigned to Utah, or awarded to Utah, that we would see a new arena built that would support the team and be built, you know, specifically for hockey,” McCay said. 

A financing mechanism to help build a new venue is something the legislature is hoping to make a reality this session.

Rep. Jon Hawkins, R-Pleasant Grove, is running the bill to allow for the creation of an “entertainment district.” His yet-to-be-released bill is titled “Entertainment Zone Amendments. 

Legislative leaders have said they do not support directly giving public money to fund a stadium, but they do support other types of financing. That’s what Hawkins’ bill will do. 

“It is it is more of a zone where we are able to, you know, collect the property tax increment that allows us to basically reinvest back in that area,” Hawkins said. 

Hawkins said local communities would have a say in decision-making.  

“We already have a soccer team here,” he said. “It would treat the Delta Center and Rio Tinto (Stadium) the same way, (and) allow those groups to work with their local communities to create an intimate entertainment district around the stadiums. Those facilities to collect that tax for reinvestment into that district.” 

Hawkins says his bill will be different than the one being run for MLB because it will be more generalized as opposed to site-specific. 

“I think I’m trying to do it as league agnostic as we possibly can because, you know, there might be future opportunities that that other professionals want to come into Utah. Uh, maybe NFL?…. I don’t know. Right? …But leave it league agnostic, right now the big push is with the NHL.” Hawkins said. 

Where would a stadium be built?

Hawkins also mentioned the need for a new hockey-specific stadium. 

“I don’t understand all the sightlines and all that. I don’t understand that really well. But it looks like we might have to possibly build a new stadium. Yeah… possibly,” he said. 

As for where it would be built, Hawkins couldn’t specify. 

“So this could be, I mean, the downtown area, but it also could be elsewhere,” he said.  

As for the next steps, McCay said they’re watching for upcoming owners’ meetings but could not specify any timetable on when a decision might be made. 

“We’re going into the all-star break for hockey here really soon…there are a lot of owners’ meetings around that time. So we’re all kind of eyeballing that meeting to see if maybe there’s greater conversations that happen out of there,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Hawkins’ bill would still need to make it through committees and the full body. The resolution on the NHL still needs to pass the House.  

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Utah leaders, Ryan Smith meet with NHL commissioner on bringing team to Utah