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If you visit the Salt Palace this week, bring your party hat, not your hard hat.

After two years of construction with a bit of controversy thrown in at the beginning and the end, the new Salt Palace is ready to host a celebration. The new convention center has been in use since February, so much in use, in fact, that its grand opening had to be postponed until Wednesday.It's a building to make all Utahns proud, and it's obviously doing what it was intended to do: increase the number of visitors to Salt Lake City. Bookings for the center for 1996 are expected to nearly quadruple past record years, more than tripling the economic impact on the community.

When it was proposed that the old Salt Palace should be torn down to make way for a new convention center, there were detractors who said the old facility was in good shape and way too young to be destroyed. They recommended remodeling, but proponents saw the need for much more, and they were obviously right.

The most recent controversy involving the new facility was more about taste than money. Some who visited the newly opened Salt Palace were a bit surprised by the choice of carpet - alternating gold and green stripes and a huge floral pattern. Some said it gave them a headache, and others were worried the unusual carpet might make conventioneers disoriented.

But Richard Davis, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, says he hasn't worried too much about the carpet and he won't unless convention participants complain. So far, none have.

The building has been busy already. The National Bowling Congress has been rolling in the alleys at the Salt Palace for months, and the Kiwanis International Convention will move in when they move out in June.

Utahns will get their first formal introduction this coming week during a grand opening with a variety of events from a parade to fireworks.

The new Salt Palace is a tremendous addition to downtown Salt Lake City and a monument to far-thinking leaders.