SALT LAKE CITY — In front of the just-revealed 13-by-21-foot statue that stands in front of her team's newly-renovated Vivint Arena, Gail Miller started to cry Tuesday.
"They have done an incredible job," she said. "They made it look like a whole new building."
She welcomed guests, shook hands, and took pictures with hundreds of fans that showed up to the public open house Tuesday, where members of the community could show up and see all of the building's changes. But Miller's favorite was right at the beginning.
"I think this entry is the most beautiful part of it, the way it welcomes people and the openness of it."
The entry will now have self-serve ticket scanners, letting people enter with their ticket or phone without the ushers' help. It also has an all-new box office and team store, as well as new neon Jazz artwork and lights.
That's not the only change, of course: fans tried out the approximately 18,300 new cushioned blue seats. They walked around the new concourses, with four new restaurants (R&R, Maxwell's, Cubby's, and El Chubasco) and 400 new TV screens. Above the upper bowl, anyone can now grab concessions and run to the new restrooms.
For businesses, the NBA's largest contiguous club space now circles around level two, while eight courtside suites feature couches and fireplaces. Redesigned suites are more roomy. All of the above sold out in about 60 days, Jazz President Steve Starks told KSL.com.
But the arena's biggest VIPs are the players, and they've redesigned everything for both the home team and the visitors. While photos weren't allowed (they're still touching a few things up before the Jazz's first game Monday), the locker room campus features new coach and player lounges, huge hot and cold tubs, all new workout and medical rooms, individual shower stalls (yes, previously the Jazz showered communally), safes in the player lockers, and much more.
Starks thinks it's the biggest locker room campus in the NBA and says that the visiting locker room feels more like a home team's setup. The goal is to give everyone, Jazz or opponents, a first-class experience that will be on their mind when making free agency decisions.
"If we provide the resources and they play as a team, it's a win-win situation," Miller said. "That's the only way we'll win a championship is if we play as a team."
That's always been the goal for the Millers, ever since they bought the team in the mid-80s. And while Larry died in 2009, Gail is still trying to bring more to the community they grew up in.
"Whether it's this arena, whether it's helping the homeless, whether it's encouraging people to vote or providing for the schools, those are all things we're passionate about, and it makes our community better," Miller said.
"We love Utah, especially Salt Lake. Larry and I were both born and raised in this part of town. It just means that our roots are here, and we do anything that we can do to make this a wonderful place to live."
The arena's first event is Wednesday, a Faith Hill and Tim McGraw concert. The Jazz's first home preseason game is Oct. 2, against the Sydney Kings, their first regular-season contest is Oct. 18 against the Denver Nuggets.