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Vivint renovation trying to realize Larry H. Miller's dream

SALT LAKE CITY — Delta Center. EnergySolutions Arena. Vivint Smart Home Arena.

No matter which moniker fans best remember it by, the home of the Utah Jazz is the manifestation of a dream attained by the late Larry H. Miller back in the early 1990s that may now be, with a $125 million renovation nearing completion, even closer to the beacon of the community he envisioned for the venue almost 30 years ago.

On a Thursday media tour of the arena, Utah Jazz President Steve Starks pointed out that new lights being installed in the undercarriage of the upper bowl would add to the glow, as viewed from the outside, of the glass-encased venue — a characteristic that Miller was seeking when the building was completed in 1991.

"It's really going to make this building feel like a lantern," Starks said. "We want it to glow and be that light in the city."

While those lights will add an aesthetic touch that would have made Miller proud, it's Jazz fans and eventgoers who will be in for the biggest treat with newly opened-up interior spaces, added amenities and convenience improvements that will fundamentally change the experience for attendees, whether they're lounging in a courtside leather seat or taking in a game from the upper bowl.

The most obvious change is the addition of a 12,000-square-foot atrium on the 300 West side of the building that will be the new main entrance, allowing guests to move in out of inclement weather. The team has also moved the box office into that space so fans can meet their friends, grab tickets and move through security in a crowd-friendly space.

And what they'll be greeted with on the other side of that security line is an open view into the arena, thanks to the addition of a "porch space" at the top of the lower bowl that includes stand-up space for those who want to take a moment before heading to their seats or check out the action while on a snack run.

Head either direction on the concourses on that level and you'll come across completely remodeled concession space, where you'll be able to dine on local fare like R&R Barbeque, as well as some new, rentable "Corner Lounge" group spaces that accommodate 24 people with hangout areas and seats just below.

Starks said the new arena vendors are heavy on local businesses and have added greater variety than the previous offerings.

"Jazz fans and concertgoers can eat at a different restaurant every time they come and get the best of a local dining experience," Starks said.

A peek into the arena reveals the all-new seating, with cushioned, Jazz-blue seats for both lower and upper bowl ticket holders. Heading up, the upper bowl entrances on the fifth floor that used to be doorways are now open walk-throughs. There is also a newly added, stand-up space at the top of the upper bowl. And, while travel between the fifth and sixth floors used to require an elevator ride or trudge up the stairs, a new escalator now connects those levels.

Starks said the team also improved and expanded access for people with disabilities on all levels and will be adding a 14-foot-tall Jazz "J-note" sculpture to the plaza in front of the new atrium. He said the hope is it will become one of those spots where fans will just have to shoot a picture.

"There are those places in cities around the world where you want to take a photo," Starks said. "We believe the J-note will become one of those for Salt Lake City and the Wasatch Front."

Above that sculpture at the top of the atrium will be a 10-foot tall, 75-foot wide video board with messages and images to greet audiences.

While the Jazz playoff run this spring led some to believe the renovation project got a late start, Starks said they had accounted for it, even in the event the team had gone all the way to the finals. A red, LED clock in the building shows a running countdown to the finish date. On Thursday, that timepiece showed just 21 days remaining until completion, a goal Starks said they were still on track to attain.

While that countdown to completion looked forward, a look back into the Deseret News archives reflected that Miller's words back in 1991 still work for the goals of the Jazz organization, and their home court, today.

"One of the most exciting things about this building is it should enhance our sense of community,'' Miller said. "I'm grateful for the opportunity to give something back."

While Toronto-based SCI Architects — specialists in arena and stadium projects — designed the new enhancements to the venue, the original design came from Salt Lake City's FFKR Architects. Jeffrey Fisher, currently a principal with the firm, worked on the original project and said he and his colleagues were happy that the Millers chose to invest in upgrading the building.

"We’re pleased that they could use the bones of the building to move it forward," Fisher said. "We continue to be proud of that building.... It's in a great city and I'm sure will continue to be a great gathering point."