SPORTS

Smith Entertainment Group addresses the logistics and politics of bringing the NHL to Utah

Apr 19, 2024, 7:51 PM | Updated: 7:56 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — On Friday, the NHL and the new owners of the Utah NHL team discussed the exciting opportunities that the team can bring to Beehive State.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman joined the new team owners, Ryan and Ashley Smith of the Smith Entertainment Group, at the Delta Center in front of a packed room filled with the press.

Ryan Smith said the deal between them and the NHL happened fast, and he wasn’t entirely sure until Tuesday night that they had a team. He said the NHL Board of Governors approved the transfer of the Arizona Coyotes move Thursday, and everyone signed the paperwork at 2 a.m. Friday.

Bettman said this process and Utahn’s reactions made it clear that Utah has what it takes to be successful as the home to an NHL franchise.

“We focused on the fact that these are the owners we want, and this is the type of community that we’d like to be a part of,” Bettman said. “Yes, we heard Utah is number one in everything—economy, employment, quality of life, happy people, you name it.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman laughs as Ryan Smith, co-founder and chairman of Smith Entertainment Group, speaks at a press conference at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City to announce that the NHL would be coming to Utah on Friday, April 18, 2024.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman laughs as Ryan Smith, co-founder and chairman of Smith Entertainment Group, speaks at a press conference at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City to announce that the NHL would be coming to Utah on Friday, April 18, 2024. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Ashley Smith echoed this feeling, saying she wants to use the sports teams they own to bring people together.

“More ways to come together in a world that’s very, very divisive, and we all get to come together around basketball, and we all get to come together around hockey,” she said.

Ashley Smith also spoke about what this meant for her family and the possibility of bringing the Stanley Cup to Utah.

Ashley Smith, co-founder of Smith Entertainment Group, speaks as she joins her husband, Ryan Smith, co-founder and chairman of Smith Entertainment Group, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman at a press conference at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City to announce that the NHL would be coming to Utah on Friday, April 18, 2024.

Ashley Smith, co-founder of Smith Entertainment Group, speaks as she joins her husband, Ryan Smith, co-founder and chairman of Smith Entertainment Group, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman at a press conference at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City to announce that the NHL would be coming to Utah on Friday, April 18, 2024. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

So much work, so little time

Ryan Smith talked about the economics and the work that needed to get done so the puck could drop in the fall for the 23-24 season.

He said he had plans to build another arena outside of downtown, but city and state leaders all agreed that the team needed to stay downtown. Most of those leaders, like Gov. Spencer Cox, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, and Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, were also in the room.

“To be honest, the plan was to just build a new arena. President Adams, Speaker Schulz, govs, mayors – we all came together to see what it would take to be downtown and to stay downtown,” Ryan Smith said. “We need it downtown. Really, I think we’ve all decided that there’s one moment to reimagine what our experience is in downtown Salt Lake.”

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

He said where the Utah Jazz go, hockey goes. But, he said this deal and the sales tax increase are not just for the arena.

“We’re going to need everyone. Real estate agents, we have 70 people moving here. We need everybody’s help, and this is truly a community asset. And it is for the community,” Ryan Smith said.

Salt Lake City and the Smith Entertainment Group are in the process of creating a project area downtown, but the specifics of that zone are unclear.

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Smith Entertainment Group addresses the logistics and politics of bringing the NHL to Utah