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UTAHN SEEKS BAN ON FESTIVAL SEATING

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Festival seating, blamed for the deaths of three teens in the Salt Palace this year, could be banned in all theaters, arenas and concert halls that hold 2,000 or more people.

Rep. Norman L. Nielsen, R-Orem, has introduced a draft bill that he says is "not necessarily" in reaction to the tragedy that occurred in the Salt Palace when three teenagers were trampled to death by a surging crowd during an AC/DC concert on Jan. 18."We just felt it would be timely to have this issue surface - to get it out in the public arena so we could get broad input from those who promote concerts, as well as public safety people," Nielsen said. "We don't want to overreact."

But the legislator said he's seeking a reasonable, balanced approach to the problem - one that protects the public on one hand "but doesn't in any way impact the ability for concert promoters from bringing outstanding entertainment to the public."

Nielsen said his interest in the bill stems from his own employment as president of Sharon Cultural Education Recreational Association, where live concerts are held.

His bill, he said, was drafted to spark discussion among legislators during interim sessions. Yet Nielsen isn't sure whether festival seating, in which people with general-admission tickets are allowed to roam freely on the arena floor, should be controlled by the state or by the county.

The Salt Lake City Council passed an ordinance in 1982 that outlawed festival seating in an effort to prevent the kind of tragedy that occurred at a concert in Cincinnati when 11 people were trampled to death.

But the chairless arrangement started again at the Salt Palace during the mid-1980s and was being used when the three teens were killed during the January concert.

Shortly after that concert, however, Salt Lake County Commission Chairman Jim Bradley called for a suspension of festival seating in the Salt Palace and Salt Palace management willingly complied.

Now it could be banned in some arenas statewide.

Restrictions in Nielsen's bill would not apply to:

- high school and college athletic events

- religious events sponsored by bona fide religious organizations

- events in which the sponsor has applied for and received specific exemption from the city or county fire marshal.

Applications for exemption must be in writing and filed with the city or county fire marshal at least 30 days prior to the date of the event, according to the bill. Violation would be a class B misdemeanor.