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FANS BALK AT SWITCHING ARENA SEATS

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Most Jazz fans who could lose their seats under city fire marshal's orders said Thursday night they would rather be reimbursed than switched to another area of the Salt Palace.

Gary Hoffer, 22, Salt Lake City, said, "I hope they keep me here. I don't want to be moved. I expect to be refunded if they move me."I don't have anything against the Jazz, I have bad feelings against the fire marshal," Hoffer said. "You pay the money to get the good seats."

John Brazier, 20, Salt Lake City, said, "There's been about 50 people walking by, and nobody has bumped me. I don't know what the problem is."

The problem is that Salt Lake Fire Marshal Robert Price ordered the seats removed after he noted 10 fire code violations while visiting the Salt Palace during a Nov. 17 Utah Jazz-Indiana Pacers game.

The 180 seats were added to the Salt Palace Arena last spring, officials said, and would add about $244,000 in ticket revenue to Jazz coffers. City officials say the additional seats were permitted last spring only for the playoffs, and such authorization was never intended to be permanent.

Brazier, accompanied by a friend, said if he was moved to another seat he would be angry and also would ask for a refund.

Other fans seated in row 11, during the Utah Jazz-Dallas Mavericks game, indicated they hoped the seating dispute would end soon.

"I hope the two parties can cooperate with each other," said Gary Kraus, from Heyburn, Idaho. "The safety and integrity of this building are paramount."

Some fans seated in row 12, just behind the portable chairs, said they were angry with the Jazz decision to add the extra 180 seats.

Rock Schutjer, of Salt Lake, said, "I think it's a fire hazard and an obstacle to my view. I paid $30 for these seats, and now I can't see very well.

"They want to make money. A quarter of a million dollars is very appealing to them. The solution is to build a new arena," he said.

Price said officials have reached an agreement allowing the Jazz to keep the seats in place while permanent arrangements are made to rearrange the seating, either where it is or elsewhere in the arena.

Two fire inspectors will be available during games and extra ushers will patrol the seating area, he said.

"You have to obey the law," said Dale Jensen, Bountiful. "But I hope they can keep the seats where they are.

"These are nice seats," he added. "I really can't see this being a fire problem, but I'm not a fire official."

On the other hand, Ross Quilter, American Fork, said, "I think it's stupid for the fire marshal to approve them (the seats) and then rescind them. Where are they going to put us? We have paid a lot of money for these tickets."

Quilter said he believed the fire marshal had ordered the seats removed because "he got fired up when he went to some seminar and this is a way for him to be recognized in his position."

Vicky Smith, Ogden, said she felt safer in her seat than in the seat in front. "I feel more secure here. I don't want to be moved."

But Marge Bayes, Salt Lake City, said everyone affected by the marshal's order should "obey the rules even though there are times when we need all available seats."

"I think the fire marshal has legitimate concerns. I wouldn't care if they moved me. I'm part of the crowd. It's not important to me."

"They (the fans) will sit in their same seats until the Jazz installs new seating to the wall area. Those seats will be permanently attached," he said. That could take four to six weeks.

"I don't believe they (the fans) will be upset. Their seats will be in the same location, and we'll have inspectors on each side during the interim period."

Meanwhile, Salt Palace officials said they are considering adding new seating off the corners of the playing floor. The displaced ticket holders could be moved there.