POLITICS & ELECTIONS

Bill to raise SLC tax for NHL stadium funding advances, SLC leaders supportive

Feb 22, 2024, 7:01 PM | Updated: Feb 23, 2024, 10:03 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Over the last two days, the Utah Legislature has unveiled two major plans to help finance major league sports stadiums.

On Thursday a Senate committee advanced the plan to fund the National Hockey League stadium and a “sports and entertainment” district downtown, which includes a sales tax increase of up to 0.5% in Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall voiced her support for the proposal, presenting the bill alongside its sponsor Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton.

“It is with this abundance of caution that we ask the people of Utah to invest in a project like this, that we know long-term, generational investment is to the benefit of not only those here today, but we look forward cheering on the Jazz and the National Hockey League,” McCay said.

He estimates that the revenue generated from this sales tax increase would be about $1 billion.

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This comes a day after plans for a Major League Baseball stadium were unveiled. That plan proposes raising hotel taxes and car rental taxes and using revenues generated by increased property values to reinvest in the project.

This NHL proposal allows for bonding so the increased tax money could go to fund either a new NHL stadium, renovations to the Delta Center, or both, along with infrastructure investments for a yet-to-be-determined area that the city council designates.

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Earlier in the day, McCay defended allowing the city to raise the sales tax. He also denied any notion that this plan was set up in order to force Salt Lake City to raise the tax or risk losing the Utah Jazz to point of the mountain, as has been rumored.

“I don’t necessarily feel like it’s calling their bluff as much as they need tools. And we’re trying to help them get tools so that they can deliver on promises they need to make in order to make it successful downtown,” he said.

He also said that allowing the city to it is the first major step in the Utah Jazz staying in downtown.

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“If you think of who benefits with the new sports arrangement, you’d hate to see downtown lose the sporting opportunities they have now. And so this goes a long way to help keep the Jazz downtown and also, you know, builds a new opportunity for the National Hockey League,” he said.

Mendenhall, the city council, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson and Jazz owners Ryan and Ashley Smith released a statement about the Jazz and Salt Lake City.

“We are working hard together to keep the Utah Jazz in downtown Salt Lake City long term and attract the NHL to the core of this city. As we look forward to the future, the time has come to re-imagine what the city can be,” they stated. “A lot of work needs to be done through investment to develop new infrastructure, enhance connectivity, attract impactful activations, and create a safe, welcoming environment for everyone downtown.”

Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost represents a portion of Salt Lake City. She was less sure about the idea of using sales tax to fund a stadium.

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“We’re talking about making sure that, you know, one city, Salt Lake City, is footing the bill for a sports fan franchise. That’s a tough sell for me,” she said.

Meanwhile, some critics argue that the Legislature isn’t funding items like homeless, housing or child care, but is getting creative when it comes to sports arenas.

Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Kaysville, disagreed telling critics to look at the budget as lawmakers have to consider what drives the economy.

“If you want to fund those things, you can’t just look at social programs. You have to look at how to drive an economy, too, because when people make money they pay taxes and it gives us the money,” he said. “We’re trying to balance it, it’s not a perfect balance but anybody that says that we haven’t made significant effort towards homelessness and social programs hasn’t looked at our budget over the last four of five years.”

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Bill to raise SLC tax for NHL stadium funding advances, SLC leaders supportive