Ryan and Ashley Smith have a vision for future of downtown, and believe it’s possible

Jul 9, 2024, 10:36 PM | Updated: Jul 10, 2024, 6:56 pm

 SALT LAKE CITY — Ryan and Ashley Smith are building professional sports teams.

Their teams recently completed the NBA and NHL drafts, and as owners, they have become community leaders who have a vision for the future of downtown Salt Lake City. The Smith Entertainment Group and the Salt Lake City Council agreed on what the city would receive from ticket sales.

Meet the couple trying to revitalize Salt Lake City: Ashley and Ryan Smith

The kitchen table

Many of the big decisions the Smiths have made over the years have come from one place — their kitchen table.

“A lot of them, yes, they do,” said Ryan Smith, chairman of the Smith Entertainment Group.

Ashley Smith, co-owner of Smith Entertainment Group, said the area lends itself to focusing on discussions.

“It didn’t happen intentionally but now, it is a place where we come together and shut everything else out,” Ashley Smith said.

SLC Council votes to endorse downtown redevelopment plan with tax increase

“We also chose a round table,”  Ryan Smith said. “Because we all want to be able to look at each other.”

He was speaking of their family of five children.

“There’s a feeling that we’re all together and having one conversation,” Ryan Smith said.

Many of the big decisions Ryan and Ashley Smith have made have come at the kitchen table. (KSL TV)

Decision to purchase the Jazz

The decision to purchase the Utah Jazz came at the kitchen table. In 2017, the Smiths said they realized their lives revolved around basketball. All seven members of the Smith family were all in.

“She’s like, all we do is go to basketball,” Ryan Smith said. “We go to Jazz games, BYU games, go to UVU games, like we are out doing basketball and our kids are playing. Like our lives are basketball. It really became clear that like that was a big focus, and we wanted to get involved with the NBA.”

However, the Smiths said they were told it’s nearly impossible to become an owner of an NBA team.

“No one gets the team they cheer for growing up,” Ryan Smith said, but the Smiths did. Majority ownership happened in the fall of 2020.

A rarity in team sports

Ashley Smith is one of the few female team owners in the sports industry.

“It’s such an incredible opportunity to be stewards of this organization, but there is a lot to sacrifice as well and especially with our children,” Ashley Smith said. “I very vividly remember sitting where you’re sitting, and Ryan sitting here, kind of saying, can it be a vehicle for growth and for improvement and for community and for all of these greater things, although we love basketball.”

Ashley Smith, co-owner of Smith Entertainment Group, said her family has the same vision and focus for the Utah Hockey Club as they do for the Utah Jazz. (KSL TV)

Ashley Smith said they have the same vision and focus for the Utah Hockey Club.

“The NHL completely made sense because it’s another vehicle for growth and another exciting side of Utah,” Ashley Smith said.

Ryan Smith added, “If you’d have told us at the beginning of the year, that we’d be sitting here with a hockey puck dropping in Utah in less than 100 days, it was on no one’s bingo card. We’re kind of looking at why is all this happening, right? I think the world of sports, entertainment, arts and culture, they’re a huge part of the community. This is a way for people to come together.”

Future of pro teams in Salt Lake City

All of these plans will include keeping the Utah Jazz and the new Utah Hockey Club in Salt Lake City.

“We live south (of Salt Lake City). It would be a lot easier for us, a lot more economical,” Ryan Smith said. “However, as part of that mission of Utah, as part of the arts, as part of entertainment, as part of that, it’s the right thing to do for our state, to be able to actually create this city that can breathe all the way through, from east to west.”

Ryan Smith is talking about the plan from the Smith Entertainment Group to create a corridor from the Delta Center to City Creek.

“Downtown should be the number one place where a business goes to have success and we’ve got a ways to go for that,” Ryan Smith said. “We’ve made a lot of progress. (Salt Lake City) Mayor (Erin) Mendenhall has been incredible, (Salt Lake County) Mayor (Jenny) Wilson’s been incredible. They, everyone, wants the same thing, and it’s just about executing and getting together and doing it.”

“I think the world of sports and entertainment and arts and culture. They’re a huge part of the community. This is a way for people to come together,” said Ryan Smith, chairman Smith Entertainment Group. (KSL TV)

“And so, that’s one of the things I love about the state, as we’ve gone through this and we’ve seen everyone kind of pulling in the same direction, it’s pretty exciting. We don’t speak for the state. That’s not our role. We do have influence over what we work on, and it is a big microphone, and we’re not afraid to use it, because it should be used. That’s why you have it there. It should be used to do good,” Ryan Smith said.

‘Do good and improve’

“I think my hope for our children is that they learn they can make a change,” Ashley Smith said. “They learn that the end goal of everything should be to do good and improve so and that you’re only going to get there through hard work and failure. So that would be, for me, what our children will learn from this is seeing the hard work, the fear, the uncertainty going anyway, all in the name of growth and unity.”

The Smiths also recognize the passion many people have for parts of this redevelopment, particularly Abravanel Hall  a county-owned building whose future is ultimately in the hands of Mayor Jenny Wilson and the Salt Lake County Council.

“We think it’s crazy that there is a narrative out there that we’re not supportive of the arts.  Abravanel Hall needs to be there in one form or another, as part of this, it’s incredible,” Ryan Smith said. “We want the arts there; we want something nice. We want (somewhere) that people can gather there, and Abravanel is a great piece of the culture in the city.”

Whether it’s the arts or sports, the Smiths said, the idea is to bring people together.

“I want the whole state holding up trophies,” Ryan Smith said. “If that happens, which we’re pretty confident it’s going to, everyone’s a part of it, that’s how we feel. This is a labor of love.”

They imagine a revitalized downtown Salt Lake City and they believe it’s possible.

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

2002 Olympics...

Daniel Woodruff

How Utah has changed since hosting the 2002 Olympics

The last time Utah hosted the Winter Olympics, things were a little different — and not just fashion trends or hairstyle —but a growth in population.

5 minutes ago

Confetti shoots from the Salt Lake City and County Building after Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenh...

Josh Ellis

Utahns react as Olympics set to return to SLC in 2034

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s official. Utah will welcome the world again after the International Olympic Committee selected Salt Lake City to host the 2034 Olympics. “Salt Lake City and Utah are long-time friends of the Olympic Movement, and we are confident that they will organize exceptional Olympic and Paralympic Games, just as they did […]

2 hours ago

A Utah Transit Authority Blue Line TRAX train in Midvale, Utah. (KSL TV)...

Dan Spindle

UTA lays track for 2034 Games and beyond

Now, 25 years after UTA first unveiled the TRAX system for public transportation on the light rail, transit in the Beehive State could get a big boost leading to the 2034 games.

3 hours ago

The 2002 Olympic cauldron is pictured at the Olympic and Paralympic Cauldron Plaza at the Universit...

Lisa Riley Roche

Inside the last-minute drama that brought changes to Utah’s Olympics bid

Concerns raised about U.S. response to doping allegations caused concern award might not happen on Pioneer Day.

4 hours ago

Attendees cheer during a live watch party for the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee’s 2034 Winter Oly...

Larry D. Curtis

Salt Lake City is officially the place for the 2034 Winter Olympics

It's finally official, Salt Lake City and Utah have been selected to host the 2034 Olympics.

5 hours ago

Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert announces the formation of an exploratory committee to consider a bid...

Deanie Wimmer and Keira Fairmont

Utah’s long journey to hosting another Winter Olympics

Submitting a bid to host the Olympic Games is a huge process and it’s one that's been going on here in Utah for more than 10 years.

10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

young male technician is repairing a printer at office...

Les Olson

Unraveling the dilemma between leasing and buying office technology

Carefully weigh these pros and cons to make an informed decision that best suits your business growth and day-to-day operation. 

A kitchen in a modern farmhouse....

Lighting Design

A room-by-room lighting guide for your home

Bookmark this room-by-room lighting guide whenever you decide to upgrade your lighting or style a new home.

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Ryan and Ashley Smith have a vision for future of downtown, and believe it’s possible