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FAREWELL TO A MAJOR S.L. LANDMARK

SHARE FAREWELL TO A MAJOR S.L. LANDMARK

In November, when a wrecking ball smashes into the Salt Palace Acord arena - the endearing if not beautiful "drum" that has become a landmark in the Salt Lake skyline - it will signal an end to the city's transition into the community of major metropolitan areas.

This week Salt Lake County announced it is auctioning off the last of the salvageable items within the arena, including ice-making equipment and 10,000 seats. Earlier this month the Acord arena hosted its final concert.And while it never lived long enough to become historic, the arena none the less will go down in history as a building that helped define the future of Salt Lake City.

Ironically, the Salt Palace's own ringing success made its arena obsolete and led to the need for a new, larger convention center to take its place.

That is quite a different picture than the one skeptics foresaw more than 25 years ago when Salt Lake County officials were planning the complex. They called it a waste of money, claiming it would sit as a giant, empty white elephant. Some even filed lawsuits seeking to halt its construction.

But within weeks after the Acord Arena opened its doors in 1969, an industrial show and the Ice Follies came to town. Then, only a few months later, the Golden Eagles hockey team moved in, followed quickly by professional basketball, first the Stars and later the Jazz.

Other events quickly followed. The city hosted the Olympic gymnastics trials in 1988. Last year, the Salt Palace was one of the few sites in the United States to host both major presidential candidates in the same day.

None of these achievements would have been possible without the foresight of community leaders who started as early as 1961 to study the need for a civic auditorium.

None of them would have come without the generosity of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which agreed to lease the site to Salt Lake County for $1 a year to make construction possible.

The arena was so successful that it finally no longer could hold as many people as wanted to watch professional basketball and other events. With construction of Larry H. Miller's Delta Center a few blocks away, the Acord Arena became obsolete.

Its destruction is a sign that Salt Lake City no longer is in the transition stage toward major-city status. The arena, the vehicle that got us here, no longer is needed.

And while sight of the "drum" rarely inspired people to marvel at its beauty, it will be sorely missed.