HB 3002 – State Fair Park Amendments, which is sponsored by Representative Sandra Hollins (Democrat – Salt Lake City), calls for the state of Utah to contribute $10 million to help build the open-air arena, which is expected to seat 10,000 people and serve as the permanent host to the annual Days of ’47 Rodeo as well as other events.
In addition to the state, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has committed to donate $3 million, Salt Lake County will give $2 million, Salt Lake City is kicking in $1 million, and a remaining $1 million will be covered by private donors. The arena is expected to be completed by July 1, 2017. It will be owned by the state, but managed by the Fair Board.
“This is a hard-fought victory for the west side, and for our state as a whole. The legislature recognizes the benefit of building this arena, and the economic driver it will be. The future of the fair park has been in jeopardy for 20 years. The ability to host large-scale events with this new arena will make the fair park and surrounding businesses more sustainable for the future. We have a plan and we are executing it now,” said Hollins.
Though he supported the bill, Senator Curt Bramble (Republican – Provo) drew attention to the fact that by helping fund the arena the state will be fueling competition with privately-owned arenas, noting recent criticism from some legislators surrounding the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City’s decision to give the Larry H. Miller Group a $22.7 million tax break to help finance renovations of Vivint Smart Home Arena.
“I support it for the state fair. I think it’s an appropriate venue. I think it’s appropriate to do, but lets at least admit either the hypocrisy or the consistency that we are having public funding of an arena that will compete with the private sector and yet there is criticism of the very public funding of a private arena with tax-increment financing.”
In recent years the Fair Park has been mired in uncertainty. At one point, the Legislature considered moving the fair to another location but ended up deciding against it. Last year, the Legislature’s unwillingness to approve a 50-year lease for the Fair Park dashed a proposal to build a minor soccer league stadium on the fairgrounds. Unable to wait any longer, Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen opted to build his minor-league soccer stadium in West Valley City instead.
Senator Scott Jenkins (Republican – Plain City) praised the bill and urged fellow lawmakers not to repeat events of the past. “It’s a good deal. If we pass this by this time — we already passed by a pretty good offer with Dell Loy. We couldn’t get it through the House and it died — we will regret the day that we passed this one by because this is a unification move as much as it is a stadium move. This is going to allow all these groups to unify that we haven’t been able to unify for years and they’re going to come back together. This will help Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County in a major way.”
Senator Luz Escamilla (Democrat – Salt Lake City), the bill’s floor sponsor, said that residents of the west side are excited at the prospect of much-needed economic development. To them, having something so positive happen in their community after the recent decision to move the Utah State Prison to the area is a breath of “fresh air and welcoming,” Escamilla told the body.
HB 3002 now heads to the desk of Governor Gary Herbert (Republican) for his signature.