Lawmakers defend Sept. 1 contract deadline on downtown Salt Lake City 'revitalization' plans

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SALT LAKE CITY — The deal to raise Salt Lake City's sales tax to help house the new NHL team and revitalize downtown is moving fast. Lawmakers are defending the timeline.

There is a Sept. 1 deadline for Smith Entertainment Group and Salt Lake City to finalize their "participation agreement" for what portion of a proposed 0.5% sales tax increase would pay for stadium renovations versus other areas of renovation within the approved downtown "revitalization zone."

The deadline comes with a requirement from the bill passed by the Legislature this year, SB272, that sets up the plan and stipulations for the contract.

The bill stipulates that the money generated could be used to fund project construction or debt service of bonds used to pay for projects. Other permissible uses of the tax money would be for public safety or road improvements within the zone.

Rep. Jon Hawkins was one of the bill's sponsors and is defending the seemingly quick timeline to have all the details sorted out.

"We had a feeling that we would have a hockey team by next season," Hawkins said, "right, which ended up being the case, and so we knew that we had to get that ball rolling as quickly as possible. So that's why we put it into place for that deadline."

Hawkins also said Sept. 1 allows for a month before the Utah State Tax Commission needs to be notified of changes so it can begin collecting on the first day of 2025.

"We put Sept. 1st in place so that we could take a month to take a look at everything that they're proposing and then put into place and kind of get it approved by Oct. 1, which is 90 days before the end of the year," he said.

Hawkins said when the bill was being crafted, the Legislature knew how fast the team would need a place to play.

"It wasn't any signal to really anybody about a hockey team, per se. It was, 'Let's get moving on revitalizing downtown,'" he said.

Some residents at Tuesday's City Council meeting expressed the sentiment that the plan was moving too fast, with few official details released thus far.

"I am opposed to this added sales tax for a project that is not fully realized for the citizens. I have not seen more the broad picture," said one resident.

A view of Japantown Street, with the Japanese Church of Christ in the foreground and the Delta Center behind it across 300 West.
A view of Japantown Street, with the Japanese Church of Christ in the foreground and the Delta Center behind it across 300 West. (Photo: Winton Armani, KSL-TV)

Hawkins also defended the fact that there have been no official renderings have been released yet by Smith Entertainment Group.

"I think they're taking their time working with the city and the county to put that together. I'm sure that they're going to be transparent with the plan, but we need to give them some time to put it together," he said.

Hawkins said he hopes people will understand that the sales tax that's being raised impacts everyone who eats and shops in Salt Lake City as much as it does the residents who live there, and raising it is up to the City Council to decide.

"I think that's the biggest misperception, in my opinion, out there that the state did this, and the state's just pushing this down on the city," he said.

Meanwhile, over 30 stakeholders came out in support of revitalizing downtown plans Tuesday and praised the efforts of Smith Entertainment Group to reimagine downtown.

"We are at a unique moment in time where leaders from across arts and culture, meetings and conventions, government, sports, entertainment, tourism and hospitality, and business are coming together with a shared commitment to reimagining downtown Salt Lake City and what it can mean for generations to come. This project is an unparalleled opportunity to leverage Salt Lake City's reputation as an iconic cultural gathering place — fostering unity for all Utahns and visitors from across the world," they said in a joint statement.

Smith Entertainment Group has set up a website to keep residents informed.

There will be another chance for the public to weigh in on all the downtown plans. The city council has voted to hold another meeting for public comment; The exact date hasn't been finalized.

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Utah NHL expansionBusinessUtahNHLSalt Lake CountyPolitics
Lindsay Aerts
Lindsay is a reporter for KSL-TV who specializes in political news. She attended Utah State University and got a degree in Broadcast Journalism. She previously reported for KSL NewsRadio.


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