Proposed expansion of the Seven Peaks ice arena raises the possibility of dueling events centers in neighboring Provo and Orem.
Utah Valley State College's McKay Center and Seven Peaks, both publicly funded venues, could compete for events such as ice shows, concerts and circuses.Officials, however, are trying to prevent that from happening. They'll consider a management agreement that gives the McKay Center dibs on virtually everything that doesn't glide on ice.
"Hopefully, what's happening here is that we're not competing," said Utah County Commissioner Gary Herbert, a member of the board that oversees the McKay Center.
The Salt Lake Organizing Committee will put up $2.25 million to expand the ice sheet under construction at Seven Peaks Water Park from 2,300 seats to 8,000 for hockey matches during the 2002 Winter Games. The Provo City/
Utah County Ice Sheet Authority approved a plan Wednesday to redesign the building.
SLOC initially planned to modify the McKay Center to host as many as 25 men's or women's hockey games. The venue, however, has sight-line problems. And SLOC wants a building with more seating to generate more revenue.
Seven Peaks would rent about 5,500 temporary retractable seats for the Olympics. There's a chance those seats could become permanent after the Games, which would make for possible competition between the arenas.
"I'd be lying if I said we weren't concerned about it," said Gil Cook, UVSC vice president for college relations. But "they've (county commissioners) assured us that it wouldn't. Of course the possibility is there."
The McKay Center was built as a community activity center, not just a college sports venue. The county diverts restaurant tax revenue to pay for the $22 million building. It already competes with the E Center and the Delta Center for events.
"We need to understand the McKay Center was designed to be self-sustaining," Herbert told ice sheet authority members Wednesday. "One more arena on the Wasatch Front makes it tougher to be self-sustaining."
Seven Peaks owner Max Rabner said he has no plans to go head to head with the McKay Center. The Seven Peaks facility, which will feature two ice rinks, is designed for hockey, figure skating and speed skating. The additional space in the building would also provide space for an indoor soccer field.
Carol Thorne, a Utah Sports Authority and ice sheet authority member, said she believes ice sports and soccer will keep the building busy year round, alleviating the concern about competition for events.
At the same time the Winter Games were being shifted from UVSC to Provo, the college was signing a contract to be home to Utah's newest professional sports franchise. The Utah Catzz of the Professional Indoor Football League intend to play their home games at the McKay Center next year. (See story on Page D1.)
A third player with a large arena, Brigham Young University, also can't be overlooked as a competitor for Utah Valley entertainment events. Marriott Center manager Larry Duffin said BYU still actively pursues concerts, but typically loses out to the Delta Center. The pop group Chicago was the last big-name band to perform in the Marriott Center. About 6,000 people attended the March 1996 show.
As an academic institution, Duffin said, BYU is not in the business of competing with the E Center or the Delta Center as well as the McKay Center, even though it is affiliated with UVSC.
SLOC quality comparison of arenas
McKay Center Seven Peaks
Seating capacity 5,000 8,000
Sight lines compromised excellent
Ice surface temporary permanent
Locker rooms 4 12
Parking access adequate adequate