SLC Council votes unanimously to approve agreement with Smith Entertainment Group | News, sports, jobs

(Photo by Spenser Heaps for the Utah News Dispatch)

The Salt Lake City & County Building in Salt Lake City is pictured on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024.

The Salt Lake City Council voted unanimously to approve a participation agreement between Smith Entertainment Group and the city. The measure is one step closer to raising Salt Lake City sales taxes by 0.5% to renovate the Delta Center and revitalize the two blocks east of the arena.

Aside from that, the city also voted to approve the creation of a project area of ​​up to 100 hectares around the Delta Center that would become a sports, entertainment, cultural and convention center.

The vote is one of the steps SB272, or Capital City Revitalization Zone bill, defined to take steps to accommodate Utah’s new National Hockey League team in downtown Salt Lake City. The agreement now goes to the Revitalization Zone Committee — made up of four lawmakers and one additional member appointed by the governor.

“When we were all sworn into office, we promised to carry out the duties of our office faithfully. This is one of those moments when we can look at ourselves in the mirror and say we’ve done it,” Salt Lake City Council President Victoria Petro said Tuesday .

Other council members, such as Alejandro Puy, also applauded the list of public benefits included in the agreement, arguing that “the success of the center is the success of every district in the city”, and that this is an opportunity that will never be repeated. Others called it “a transformative step” and “a monumental investment.”

The Revitalization Zone Committee has 30 days to review the agreement and discuss it at a public meeting. The legislative group could send the agreement back to the city with comments and resume negotiations between Smith Entertainment Group and the city for another deal.

If the committee approves, it goes back to the city for a final vote to possibly approve the sales tax increase.

In a joint statement, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Mike Maughan, a Smith Entertainment Group executive and project manager, applauded the action and said much work remains to be done in collaboration with authorities and community partners.

“Tonight’s unanimous vote by the Salt Lake City Council is an important endorsement and a positive step toward creating a sports, entertainment, cultural and convention district in the heart of downtown,” Mendenhall and Maughan wrote. “We are grateful for the council’s support for this vision that will create a more enabled, connected and family-friendly future for Salt Lake City.”

Last Tuesday, the city released its draft participation agreement, which included more details about the public benefits the Salt Lakers would receive from the $900 million the tax increase is supposed to raise.

The approved motion included other highlights, such as a development agreement with construction restriction plans that would address the likely disruptions to the flow of pedestrians and vehicular traffic and potential negative impacts on residents and businesses in the area.

There would also be a priority on transit development, with Smith Entertainment Group and the Utah Transit Authority coordinating to create transit programs and incentives to promote riders to the district, Councilwoman Eva López Chávez said in her motion to support the deal.

A few hours before the vote, Katie Lewis, Salt Lake City’s attorney, briefed the council on the salient points of the deal: Smith Entertainment Group estimates that $525 million will be spent on the Delta Center redevelopment and $375 million will go toward coverage. costs for developing the district. And there would be public benefits, such as an account funded from a new Delta Center ticket fee to spend on family-friendly and affordable housing, among other city initiatives.

The company also agreed to host all NHL and Utah Jazz home games at the Delta Center. If either the NHL or NBA team leaves within 15 years of the agreement, Smith Entertainment Group must pay $125 million. If both leave, that number would rise to $250 million. That amount would be reduced by $16 million each year after the initial 15-year period and reduced to zero at the end of the 30-year contract.

All construction financed by the public money must be completed within 10 years from the approval of the agreement. In addition, there must be funds set aside for public art and to revitalize Japantown — a stretch of the city on 100 South between 200 West and 300 West, the remnant of what was once a large community of Japanese Americans.

The investment in Japantown was one of the things Councilman Darin Mano, who is of Japanese heritage, had been most nervous about during previous meetings. However, he said he was grateful for what came together.

“I know we didn’t get everything we wanted in this participation agreement, but please stay at the table,” Mano said. “We have much more to do and many more opportunities to fight for Japantown.”

The agreement also includes other workforce development initiatives specifically for low-income residents, youth programs and free and subsidized tickets.

During the previous council work session, Victoria Petro, the president of the Salt Lake City Council, strongly advocated for the agreement, arguing that this is a chance to transform a property that is “functionally fallow,” disruptive to walkability and contributing very little. to drive sustainability.

She praised Smith Entertainment Group for entering the conversation in good faith, adding that this would represent an important investment as many philanthropists are “being tapped after COVID.”

Petro also acknowledged Salt Lakers’ concerns, but said she would even put her re-election hopes on the line to defend the project.

“Our community needs to win, and I’m really proud that we were able to do this. I’ve said a million times this week that I’d rather be short-term and efficient than long-term and floundering,” Petro said. “If I lose re-election for that I have done something bold for the good of the city, that protects the young people who need the jobs, that promotes walkability and sustainability, that promotes vibrancy, I will happily retire.”

Some members of the Japantown community thanked the council during a general public comment period following the vote. Some added requests to these estimate comments, such as design considerations.

“I remain optimistic that the City Council and SEG will maintain their commitment to support the two churches in Japantown. Furthermore, I trust that the City Council and SEG will facilitate, rather than hinder, the churches in their ongoing activities,” said Kristine Aramaki , a member of the Japanese Church of Christ, on Tuesday. “It is important to recognize that the closure of 300 West will block a significant access point to the Japanese Church parking lot, affecting attendance at Sunday services and other daily activities.”

However, other commentators emerged to speak against the tax increase and using public funds for the project. Some criticized that the project would benefit a billionaire, while imposing a tax on those “who can least afford to pay it”

“I’m so disappointed that you’ve heard hundreds, if not thousands of people speaking out against this partnership, or whatever it is. And again, hockey arenas don’t increase foot traffic to nearby businesses, and arenas have been shown to only shift financial spending, not create new expenses,” Kseniya Kniazeva, president of the Nomad Alliance, said during the public comment period, questioning how residents would shoulder the cost of the tax with current levels of inflation and a housing affordability crisis.


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