Sports

More details of Utah NHL arena vision revealed

Ryan Smith says Delta Center will be remodeled to seat about 17,000 fans without compromising basketball experience

By: Alixel Cabrera, Utah News Dispatch

Hours after the National Hockey League announced that the Arizona Coyotes would move to downtown Salt Lake City under a new name and logo, the Delta Center sold over 22,000 season ticket deposits for the new hockey team.

A sign that — according to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman along with Ryan and Ashley Smith, who own the Smith Entertainment Group — demonstrates the state’s enthusiasm to bring professional hockey.

Going forward, the arena that until now had hosted the Utah Jazz is set to undergo a major makeover to also accommodate an ice rink. That, instead of building a new arena as SB272, or Capital City Revitalization Zone, originally proposed to the Utah Legislature during this year’s general session.

On Friday afternoon, the sleek hardwood floors had been replaced with ice, a preview of what’s coming to the Delta Center. The Smith Entertainment Group, which just purchased the NHL team and also owns the Utah Jazz, is betting that revitalization plans for the surrounding area pay off.

“It’s going to take everyone. It’s going to take the county, it’s going to take the city, from a tax standpoint, but will generate a lot of revenue,” Ryan Smith said during a news conference Friday. “And I think down the road everyone will look back and go ‘wow, like, at a time when we needed to revitalize, reimagine. We invested and it worked out.’”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Ashley Smith smile as team owner Ryan Smith gestures during a news conference at the Delta Center on April 19, 2024 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The NHL has allowed the sale of the Arizona Coyotes and the team will relocate to Salt Lake City, Utah.(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

SB272 drew a path for Salt Lake City to raise sales taxes by 0.5% to raise about $1 billion in up to 30 years. Now, it’s in the city’s hands to approve those plans to partially fund the arena’s renovations and a revitalization zone in Salt Lake City’s downtown.

Because there’s not enough land downtown, the Delta Center, which Smith described as having “great bones,” will be remodeled to host both hockey and basketball. The Smiths’ current plans entail a reduction of seats, from 20,000 to about 17,000. It wouldn’t compromise the NBA experience, Smith said. About 12,000 of those will have perfect views.

The hope, he said, is to create a more vibrant downtown, with families visiting for afternoon games and hanging out until midnight. “Another 40 nights a year helps that.”

Smith also expects the redevelopment to benefit the surrounding area to the Delta Center and include more housing around the facility.

The company had plans to move the Utah Jazz to an arena in Draper, where there was “a blank piece of land,” that could have included 100 acres and 5,000 housing units. But elected officials stopped that effort in the middle of the process, Smith said, arguing that the Jazz should stay downtown.

“I remember coming back and being like, we found a way. It’s a little gnarly, but we found a way and everyone said ‘we love it.’ (Latter-day Saints) church, you guys love it, the U.,” Smith said. “Everyone’s rallying behind this.”

One of those rallying behind the plans is Gov. Spencer Cox, who called the NHL move “the starting line.”

“There were 1,000 ways for this not to happen, 1,000 ways that this could have gone wrong and almost keep going wrong. It did go wrong. So many people came together to find a way to make this work. But let me just say that none of that matters. It’s awesome that Utah comes together and that Democrats and Republicans work together. But none of this happens without Ashley and Ryan Smith,” Cox said on Friday.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendehall also said that the city is ready to host the team and called having an NHL team “a natural next step.”

“Salt Lake City can’t wait to welcome the world back and we are going to sign that contract on July 24 for the 2034 Winter Olympics to come back here,” Mendenhall said. “And I think all of these things combined are symbolic of the spirit of Salt Lakers.”

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