The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints expressed support Thursday for efforts to revamp downtown Salt Lake City, which could include an NHL hockey arena.

Utah lawmakers passed legislation this week that would allow Salt Lake City to create a downtown revitalization zone. The bill was titled “Capital City Reinvestment Zone Amendments,” which described the zone as a “sports and entertainment project area.”

On Thursday, the House passed a new version of SB272 that changed “sports and entertainment project area” to “revitalization zone,” and “reinvestment” in the title to “revitalization.”

“The aim of this bill is to revitalize downtown. As we all know, there are concerns with how our capital city looks and is presented to the world,” said Rep. Jon Hawkins, R-Pleasant Grove, before the House approved the measure 50-20.

“It brings our capital to life again,” he said. “This bill is an effort to restore Salt Lake City to its once and future glory.”

The bill went back to the Senate, where it passed Friday 22-4. It now heads to the governor’s desk.

The Church of Jesus Christ supports endeavors to enhance downtown, though it did not address specifics in the legislation.

“The church has always demonstrated interest in making sure Utah’s capital city remains vibrant and attractive, both for those who live and work there as well as those who visit,” church spokesman Doug Andersen said in a statement.

“As a stakeholder in the downtown community, where the church’s global headquarters is positioned, we’re pleased with the potential this has to refresh and revitalize downtown Salt Lake City while presenting a safe and family friendly gathering place for generations to come.”

Utah Senate passes bill for potential downtown hockey arena

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall has said the bill could transform the city center and better connect its current entertainment offerings. She said it would link the east and west sides of downtown, including the Delta Center, Temple Square, the theater district, and the City Creek and Gateway malls.

The church is currently in the middle of a six-year Salt Lake Temple renovation project. The surrounding area on Temple Square and Main Street plaza near the Church Office Building are also undergoing renovation and restoration. The south visitors’ center was demolished and construction crews are building pavilions and a new guest building. The above-ground pavilions will offer direct and unobstructed views of the temple, according to the church.

The church also owns the City Creek Center, a mixed-use development with upscale open-air shopping, office and residential buildings, fountain, and simulated creek just south of Temple Square.

In a joint statement Friday, Mendenhall, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson and Smith Entertainment Group owners Ryan and Ashley Smith said they are poised to “invest deeply” in Salt Lake City’s downtown experience.

“There’s a lot of work ahead of us, and we’re thrilled to have this seminal opportunity to partner together to reimagine the downtown experience — to create a comprehensive, visionary plan that generates a vibrant, safe, and fully activated downtown. With Utah Jazz games, the latest Broadway shows, world-renowned concerts, global events and the opportunity to attract the Olympics and NHL, the downtown experience will serve as the state’s anchor for arts, culture, sports and entertainment,” according to the statement.

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Under SB272, the city could raise its current 7.75% sales tax rate one-half of a percent for the project area for no more than 30 years. Officials say the project could include tearing down or repurposing current buildings. The bill allows for bonding to construct or remodel a sports arena.

“It’s obviously centered around remodeling the Delta Center and making sure that it can be both a basketball and a hockey venue,” said Rep. Val Peterson, R-Orem.

Smith Entertainment Group is looking to bring a National Hockey League franchise to Salt Lake City. Smith has said the Delta Center — configured to seat around 14,000 for hockey — could accommodate a team as early as next year, and he has designs on building an arena dedicated to hockey in the future. There has been speculation that SEG would look south to construct a new venue in a mixed-use development called The Point that’s in the works at the former state prison site. The legislation provides a path to keep a potential NHL team downtown along with the Jazz.

“Downtown Salt Lake City is the heart of Utah. Our efforts are not about an arena, it’s about revitalizing a downtown that desperately needs investment. Imagine a downtown experience like this with the NBA / NHL at its core,” Ryan Smith posted this week on X, formerly Twitter, along with a rendering of a bustling, but unidentified downtown street with a brand new sports arena sporting a Jazz logo.

Smith, Mendenhall, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson and the Salt Lake City Council issued a joint statement in February saying they are working hard together to keep the Jazz downtown long term and attract an NHL team.

“As we look toward the future, the time has come to reimagine what the city can be. A lot of work needs to be done through investment to develop new infrastructure, enhance connectivity, attract impactful activations and create a safe, welcoming environment for everyone in downtown,” the statement said.

Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, said on the Senate floor this week that Smith’s “original plan was not to do this” but saw what investing in downtown Salt Lake City could mean to the state.

“There’s always talk of public investment but the private investment will exceed the public investment, and that number has yet to really be focused on,” McCay said.


McCay, the sponsor of SB272, said the project shouldn’t be thought of as just a hockey or basketball arena, but an opportunity to revamp the city’s core. “We’re not building an arena,” he said. “We’re building a city.”

Lawmakers also said they want the capital city to be prepared to host the Olympics. Salt Lake City is the International Olympic Committee’s preferred host for the 2034 Winter Games.

“This is the perfect time for Salt Lake to get ready to host the world and to modernize and revitalize what’s going on downtown and for us to really showcase who we are,” said Rep. Melissa Garff Ballard, R-North Salt Lake.

A revitalization zone committee would have oversight of the project area, including reviewing expenditures as well as plans for land use, parking, transportation public safety and reducing homelessness. The committee would be made up of two state senators, two House members and one person appointed by the governor. Salt Lake City would have the final say on projects in the zone.

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