Delta Center renovations could begin next year. Here's what some of Smith's plans look like

A draft rendering of a proposed "sports, entertainment, culture and convention center" surrounding a renovated Delta Center.

A draft rendering of a proposed "sports, entertainment, culture and convention center" surrounding a renovated Delta Center. (Smith Entertainment Group)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Construction to remodel the Delta Center could begin as early as April 2025, Smith Entertainment Group officials said Tuesday as they updated Salt Lake leaders on the plans for a proposed "sports, entertainment, culture and convention center" surrounding the arena.

The expansion would be carried out over multiple years, but the timeline of the remainder of the company's plans — a hotel, housing and new walkable plaza with a jumbotron — remains unclear as negotiations between the two sides continue.

"The timeline for everything else would be determined in coordination with both the city and county. There are a lot of factors that go into all of that," said Smith Entertainment Group executive Mike Maughan.

Maughan offered a few new details to the Salt Lake City Council during an hourlong follow-up discussion, including new renderings that show what types of overhauls Smith Entertainment Group would like to see directly east of the Delta Center as a part of the massive plan.

Possible Delta Center reconfiguration

The new renderings show that the Delta Center would be reconfigured with an expansion jutting out toward its northeast edge. New buildings would be constructed on its eastern corners, replacing its northeast and southeast plazas. The expansion would move the building close to where 300 West exists, but that would be tunneled underground.

A parking garage would be built on the arena's southwest corner.

The Salt Palace Convention Center would be drastically remodeled to make way for a new hotel and at least one new residential tower. A walkable plaza that links the Delta Center to buildings like Abravanel Hall are also included, according to a draft design released on Tuesday. The towers' estimated heights are to be determined.

This, Maughan says, would allow for more pedestrian flow between the Delta Center and buildings along West Temple. It would also link up with City Creek Center and possibly the western edge of Salt Lake City's proposed Main Street promenade.

Abravanel Hall and Utah Museum of Contemporary Art are listed as "Phase 2" to account for options that Salt Lake County is considering for the buildings, Maughan said.

Maughan revealed a few new details to KSL-TV before Tuesday's meeting. While the proposed zoning changes that the company asked for include making heliports "permitted" uses, Maughan also said those are not a part of the discussion.

He said last month that the company will honor Salt Lake County's decision on existing properties in the project zone, like Abravanel Hall and the Utah Museum of Contemporary Arts.

Yet a good portion of Tuesday's informational meeting turned to questions and concerns about what is not included in Smith's current plans.

Councilman Darin Mano said he believes the walkable pathway is "far better" than the space that the Salt Palace takes up downtown, but he and his colleagues said they'd like to see certain amenities included, such as more green space, affordable housing and daily programming and activities so downtown remains active beyond game day.

Residents, businesses weigh in

That conservation carried into a second public hearing on the issue that the City Council held Tuesday evening. Much like the first hearing on May 21, residents were split on the proposal, with many pleading to keep some existing properties preserved.

However, several residents said they remain skittish and skeptical about the plan. Those opposed said they remain unconvinced with what Smith Entertainment Group has to offer. One resident called it a "boondoggle" while others questioned why a billionaire needs taxpayer money to complete the project.

Resident Ashley Patterson said the city shouldn't vote on a measure with so few public details to date.

"Going along with the proposal is indeed the easier route, but it's not necessarily the best for the city and its residents," she said.

But many people spoke in favor of the plan, including several business owners — an aspect that was not included as much in the first hearing.

J-Dawgs founder Jayson Edwards said all of his restaurants' locations in Utah, its Salt Lake City location struggled the most — especially after 2 p.m. and on Saturdays. He said he spoke with other local business owners, and it appears to be a "universal experience" among other small businesses in the area.

"A lot of small businesses are suffering in our capital city. Salt Lake is an amazing place, and it needs a shot in the arm," he said. "This new district is the first thing I've seen that I can hope for."

Taxing dilemma

The City Council ended Tuesday's hearing by voting to not hold a third meeting of its kind — at least for now. Salt Lake City Council Chairwoman Victoria Petro told KSL.com afterward she believes it's "possible" the City Council could vote to "send something to the state to see if they approve it" next month.

The state needs to approve any agreement between Smith Entertainment Group and Salt Lake City over a revitalization district by Sept. 1, per the bill that set up the whole process.

"I'm not going to commit to anything. I think, at this moment, we're on a really positive trajectory," she said, adding she's encouraged by the "progress" of discussions over the past week in particular.

A tax increase is a different story — and Salt Lake City leaders have less time to consider it than they had initially thought. Petro said the city was recently informed that it needs to vote on a proposed 0.5% sales tax increase to help fund projects by about September, not the end of the year, so that the Utah Tax Commission has enough time to set the rate for 2025, should it be approved.

The City Council heard both sides of the argument on Tuesday, as well.

Natalie Gouchnour, director of the University of Utah Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, explained that cities require constant investments to avoid falling apart and to prevent other cities from snagging businesses away. She contends the project can meet those goals.

"The major impact is that you invest in the city and keep it vibrant so that people come," she said. "When people come, it helps everybody. … You can pay more now or a lot more later."

Gouchnour added the institute projects Salt Lake residents will ultimately end up paying 20-25% of the tax revenue, while the bulk is picked up by instate and out-of-state visitors and businesses. It also projects it will cost $120-150 per household annually, although big-time consumers could end up paying much more than that.

Petro said she believes the project can be "catalytic" for downtown businesses and walkability, but she said she asked that the project include well-paying jobs and ways to reduce city transportation gaps.

She added that the city doesn't take a proposed sales tax increase lightly.

"This doesn't work unless Salt Lakers are able to enjoy the city that they've built that you and I get to enjoy," Petro said. "For me, that's the inflection point."

Contributing: Lindsay Aerts

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Carter Williams is a reporter who covers general news, local government, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com.

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