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Delta CEO says the Delta Center is here to stay: ‘We’re never gonna leave’

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Delta CEO Ed Bastian and Utah Jazz owners Ryan and Ashley Smith pose for photos at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. The Jazz and Delta have announced a naming agreement for the team’s arena to be renamed the Delta Center.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian and Utah Jazz owners Ryan and Ashley Smith pose for photos at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. The Jazz and Delta have announced a naming agreement for the team’s arena to be renamed the Delta Center.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

The Utah Jazz’s home arena will once again be the Delta Center when Delta Air Lines’ new agreement for the naming rights to the building takes effect in July, but how long will that last?

Jazz owner Ryan Smith and Delta CEO Ed Bastian weren’t willing to discuss the specific terms of their new contract on Saturday after the deal was announced, but Bastian was clear in his desire to keep the Delta name on the downtown Salt Lake City arena for as long as possible.

“The fact that we’re coming back in here, and putting a real great brand with 5,000 employees behind it, we’re never gonna leave,” Bastian said. “You’ve got me on tape now.”

Bastian, who has a home in Park City, went on to note that it was his decision in 2006 to not renew the naming rights contract.

He said that since then, he has often overheard people talking about the arena and still calling it the Delta Center, even through its iterations as EnergySolutions Arena and Vivint Arena.

“Every time somebody called it the Delta Center it would bother me,” Bastian said. “I felt guilty just one more time, and when you add on top of the fact that we have 5,000 hard working women and men here in this community, in the city, in the state and the pride they take in the state and serving the community and having that arena, that was kind of taken away from them.

“I felt such an obligation.”

So, a couple of years ago while attending a Jazz game in Atlanta, Bastian and Smith got to talking and Bastian mentioned that if there were ever an opportunity to bring the Delta Center back, he’d be interested.

With Vivint owning the naming rights through 2025, neither knew whether a deal would even be possible, but Vivint agreed to give up naming rights while signing a new sponsorship and promotional partnership agreement with the Jazz that will run through 2030.

“This stuff doesn’t happen very often,” Smith said. “Our partners are everything for us and we’re extending a major partnership with Vivint, but we’re Jazz fans, they’re Jazz fans and everyone knows what this means.

“I think this is probably the only naming rights deal that could ever come along where Vivint would work with us to do this, and they leaned in and we made it all possible in a way that probably could only happen in Utah.”

Because the arena was first called the Delta Center when it broke ground in 1991 and held that name for the first 15 years of its existence, the name holds some weighty nostalgia among Jazz fans and those who attended games or other events in Salt Lake City.

Smith said that there are a lot of things as an NBA owner, and specifically as owner of the Jazz, that make decisions difficult with a lot of gray area.

He noted how much Gail Miller, who sold the Jazz to him, had told him and his wife, Ashley, to prioritize the history and legacy of the Jazz, and Smith said bringing back the Delta Center felt like a time when he could really hold up that promise to Miller.

“Gail would talk to Ash and I so many times about being stewards,” Smith said, “and I never knew what that meant until like a year in and I was like, ‘Holy cow, there’s a lot of history here.’

“There’s a lot of DNA and it’s hard to be in this spot and know what part of the DNA to leave behind to take the organization to new heights and what part to embrace, because oftentimes the decisions aren’t simple and sometimes they’re both bad options or whatever it is. This was crystal clear.”