SALT LAKE CITY— The new $17 million arena at the Utah State Fairpark made its debut this month, but a legislative committee learned Tuesday that it is missing a few amenties — like adequate ventilation for concession stands and heated bathrooms for when winter rolls along.
While events like the Vans Warped Tour, the BMW Rally and the Days of 47 Rodeo have Fairpark officials optimistic about the venue's future, they told members of the Legislature's Executive Appropriations Committee meeting at the Capitol Tuesday that the site needs another $761,000 worth of key items that were left out of the arena budget.
"Like any new building, there's a few hiccups that we've got to try and address," said Larry Mullenax, executive director of the Fairpark.
Mullenax said the Pioneer Day festivities highlighted the need for improved parking and more pedestrian entrances. He noted that concessions stands were without ventilation, leading to overheating. Additionally, heating systems would be needed to make the venue more suitable for hosting events in the winter.
"I didn't realize they sold buildings without heat," said Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton. "That's going to buy a car and then having air conditioning as an add-on."
Gibson asked if the heating for the arena's bathrooms was sacrificed from the budget in exchange for other areas in the arena.
Mullenax said he wished he had a good answer for the missing heating, other than that it was removed to keep the project on budget.
The arena was completed with $10 million from the Legislature, a combined $3 million from Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City and $3 million from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
On a more optimistic tone, Mullenax noted that revenues are up almost 50 percent while operating expenses are down about 5 percent since last year.
He said other items could be added to "maximize the earning potential" for the new arena. The arena does not include a mobile stage for concerts, and the limitations of the arena's dirt floor might prevent musicians and performers from choosing to book appearances. Mullenax said dirt and dust could cause injuries to a singer's vocal chords.
"If they sing outside and the dust gets kicked up, which it has a tendency to do, it will prevent them from maybe doing one or two other subsequent shows," Mullenax said.
A removable floor cover to lay over the dirt arena would cost about $180,000. A mobile concert stage would cost $80,000. Ventilation for the concession stands would cost $26,000 and heating for restrooms is etsimated at $225,000.
Mullenax also said that while the arena had the mounting system for a JumboTron screen, the screen itself was not part of the project's budget. The screen would cost an additional $250,000.
Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, recommended baby-changing stations to be included in the arena bathrooms.
"We can't miss the opportunities to do greater things for the smaller pieces," Escamilla said.
Escamilla said the arena has represented a large investment for potential economic growth on Salt Lake City's west side, and the arena will get its return on investment through the inclusion of the missing amenities.
Mullenax said the Fairpark has been able to set aside $242,000 toward the cost of all the items needed to bring success to the Fairpark.