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W.V. inks a deal on Hale Theater

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WEST VALLEY CITY — It's a done deal. No, it's not. Yes, it is.

Though how much — if anything — West Valley City will make remains to be seen, this time, there really is a done lease deal that involves the city, the Hale Center Theater, U.S. Olympic Committee licensee SportsMark Management Group and at least four other groups that will be renting the theater during the Olympics.

As of this time last year, the city was "flying high" when it thought it had a $400,000 deal to lease its Hale Center Theater to the National Hockey League during the Olympics. NHL people later said there was never a "done deal" and went on to change their priorities for an NHL presence at the Games.

SportsMark's David Elmore, co-owner of the Utah Grizzlies hockey team, stepped in and helped broker a new deal over the past three months.

Now, the city is renting the theater, which it owns and leases to a private group, for $100,000. In turn, SportsMark is paying the city $100,000 to sublease the theater. SportsMark has agreed to share with the city half the profits made off the tenants it secures for the Games.

The Hale Center Theater is located across the street from the E Center, site for Olympic hockey events and short-track speedskating.

SportsMark has deals with the NHL, the USA and Canadian hockey associations and the Toronto-based retailer Roots, an official apparel supplier to the U.S., Canadian and Great Britain hockey leagues.

SportsMark and its tenants will occupy the entire Hale Center Theater from Feb. 4 until Feb. 26.

Though the city is hopeful it will see some profits in the deal, it's possible it will only break even. Infrastructure costs to accommodate the tenants may end up eating away at the profits. Catering, television and communications considerations have to be made.

SportsMark CEO Jan Katzoff said he won't know until the end of the Games if the city will make anything.

"I think it's overall a pretty good deal for the city, considering the facility was sitting empty," he said. "I don't see anybody getting hurt in this."

City Manager John Patterson is hopeful the city will turn a profit but more relieved the theater will have a prominent place during the Games.

"Think of where we would have been," if a deal had not been made, Patterson said. By the time the city informed Hale Center management the NHL deal had fallen flat, it was too late for them to bounce back and schedule a new revenue generator in time for the Games.

The fear was, the theater would have sat empty during the Olympics. "We've really been scrambling," Katzoff said.

That scrambling has reaped dividends for people looking for a freebie.

While the theater is being leased during the Games, there will be private functions. But the theater will open up to the public for eight or nine days.

Free of charge, people will have the chance to view the coveted NHL Stanley Cup and hockey-related exhibits and to rub elbows with some of the sport's greatest players. The legendary Wayne Gretzky, general manager of Canada's Olympic team, is expected to show up. Photo opportunities with players may become available.

"The (Hockey Hall of Fame) display will be a wonderful way for Olympic visitors and Utah residents to learn of the 83-year history of the National Hockey League," said NHL International's Ken Yaffe in an e-mail to the Deseret News on Tuesday.

"It'll be so cool," Patterson said. And the city still has its deal to host the Holland House for Dutch visitors during the Games.

The money the city will make from the lease of its West Ridge Golf Course clubhouse to the brewers of Heineken beer will more than pay for the $120,000 cost of sending staffers to the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics. That trip was touted as a chance for city leaders to establish business contacts and set up the city to make money next month.

Details of free events at the Hale Center during the Olympics are expected to be released this week.

E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com