‘Sports, entertainment, culture and convention’: Group vows on plan to revitalize downtown SLC

May 7, 2024, 7:54 PM | Updated: 11:18 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The Smith Entertainment Group is vowing that its revitalization project in downtown Salt Lake City will be a “sports, entertainment, culture and convention” district, not just an arena rebuild as the city weighs a sales tax increase to help fund it.

The group updated Salt Lake City Council on its plans Tuesday, but many specifics are still in negotiations. The council heard from Mike Maughan, principal lead on the project for SEG along with city and county mayors Erin Mendenhall and Jenny Wilson.

Maughan told the council that SEG wants to create a “flow and connectivity” that hasn’t existed in the city for a while because the Salt Palace divides the east and west sides of the city.

“The door to the Jazz doesn’t open up to the rest of downtown,” Maughan said, pointing out that the Salt Palace and Abravanel Hall all open to different directions.

“I would say that downtown has a bit of our teeth in every direction, and our town is in need of some braces,” he said, using teeth a teeth-straightening analogy.

Maughan said the plan for the Delta Center is to have it open to the east facing City Creek and “connecting that whole thing.” The plans include “revitalizing” the two city blocks east. Maughan also made known an estimate of what SEG may invest in the project.

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“Our very preliminary estimate is at least $3 billion, but I anticipate it will be much more,” he said.

A proposed sales tax increase, Maughan estimates, would create $1.2 billion over the 30-year period. Per state law, $900 million could go to SEG to be divided up between costs for the stadium and the revitalization zone, though the city and SEG still need to come to terms on how that gets split.

A map of the Delta Center and the blocks surrounding it

A map of the area targeted by Smith Entertainment Group to construct an area it says will revitalize downtown Salt Lake City. (Keira Farrimond, KSL TV)

Maughan promised some guiding principles of the project — walkability, safety, sustainability, economic development leading to growth in the general fund, activation of downtown, inclusion of community partners, a cohesive transportation plan along with sustainable and organized parking, and increases in arts, culture and community gatherings.

“If some person came and waved a magic wand and built the very best state-of-the-art, perfect arena for hockey and basketball on the site where the Delta Center is right now and nothing else in downtown changed, we would not do it,” he said. “What we want to do here is a very mission-driven thing where we want to help reimagine the future of downtown Salt Lake and where we are committed to those four principles: sports, entertainment, culture, and convention.”

SEG is also asking for rezoning. It wants the city to get rid of maximum heights for buildings within this area, and it wants those rezoning changes to include arenas, stadiums, heliports, commercial buildings, and parking off-site.

Tax financing and a sales tax increase

So, how does this all get paid for? SEG is asking the council to approve a .5% sales tax increase — of which it wants to take the full amount for 30 years. That means your bill would go up by 5 cents on a $10 purchase in Salt Lake City.

It is also requesting to possibly set up some tax increment financing to collect any gains created from the project that increase property values in the area to pay for improvements.

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‘Sports, entertainment, culture and convention’: Group vows on plan to revitalize downtown SLC