The board of governors of the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce not only supports expansion of the Salt Palace to accommodate major conventions, but also wants Gov. Norm Bangerter to call a special legislative session so $15 million can be appropriated to get the expansion work started.
By a majority vote, the board voted to ask Bangerter to call a special session with the hope the funds will be made available quickly.The vote came following a presentation by Anthony Rampton, a board member and vice chairman of the chamber's Government Affairs Committee, who termed appropriation of the money an emergency. "If we wait until January during the general session we have lost another six months in the effort to expand and remodel the Salt Palace," he said.
At one time there was a push for a special session to spend some money on social services programs, but Monday legislative leadership and the governor agreed upon a plan to spend some surplus money on those programs between now and November when people will vote on a proposal to remove the sales tax on food.
Board member James Lee said special sessions should be for emergencies only and doesn't consider the Salt Palace issue such an emergency that it couldn't wait until January. Last January, the $15 million appropriation wasn't made because it got caught up in the rush of the final days.
Another board member, Jim Peacock, questioned the wisdom of the chamber's board of governors taking a lead role in pushing for a special session because apparently nobody else wants a special session.
Rampton said it will cost between $45 million and $60 million to expand and remodel the Salt Palace once Larry H. Miller completes his new arena for the Utah Jazz and the Salt Lake Golden Eagles.
He said some large conventions have canceled their plans to meet in Salt Lake City because the Salt Palace isn't big enough. Because conventions are booked several years in advance, larger conventions can be booked after plans for the expansion and remodeling are completed, he said.