SALT LAKE CITY — For one night only, the Salt Lake City Stars changed homes on Monday — from the Lifetime Activities Center at Salt Lake Community College to the newly renovated Vivint Arena.
Stars president Jonathan Rinehart saw the opportunity to make the game a night for the whole family to enjoy in an NBA arena.
“This was already scheduled as our Jazz night originally, and it so happened it was one of Jr. Jazz’s big nights here at the arena,” said Rinehart. “We just looked at it internally, it made a lot of sense for us to try and partner up, allow the kids an opportunity to see the Stars game — make it a bigger event than it was, and give our guys a chance to play here at the arena.”
The kids were ecstatic as the loud roar of the Jazz Bear’s motorcycle came out before the game started, but riding with the Bear was Buster, the Stars’ mascot, symbolizing the relationship between the two organizations.
But it’s not just two bears riding a motorcycle that these two teams have in common.
The Jazz and the Stars are closely connected by front offices and players that are shared between the two teams. Jazz players like Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, Ekpe Udoh, and Raul Neto were enjoying the game from the front row or taking pictures with fans.
Vivint Arena treated the game like any other Jazz game: there were several food vendors open and the Utah Jazz team store was open for business. This was the store’s first night selling the “Statement” jersey of rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell, and they were the hottest selling item in the store that night, according to store manager Abraham Ortiz.
Some of the Stars players have never set foot on an NBA floor, so this was an exciting opportunity for them as well. However, coach Martin Schiller didn’t think the change of venue would matter. Stars players like Nate Wolters, Eric Griffin, and Naz Mitrou-Long played during the preseason with the Jazz, so they were familiar with the arena and the feeling of walking out of the tunnel for the first time.
“For guys that it’s their first time, I can say — whether you admit it or not, there’s definitely butterflies and excitement,” said Mitrou-Long, “This is the dream, to play in the NBA. It’s a fun time when you get to play in an environment like this.”
Tony Bradley is a Jazz player but has played two games with the Stars and has been on the courts at both Bruin Arena and Vivint Smart Home Arena.
“There was a lot more people, for sure.” said Bradley. “Kinda felt like a Jazz game.”
Despite the home crowd of 4,721, the Stars were defeated by the Rio Grande Valley Vipers 117-104. The Stars look to bounce back on a two game road trip before returning home to face the Canton Charge next Monday.
Despite the loss, Rinehart was positive about the experience. “We’re very happy with it, been a great partnership, and I think it’s something we’ll look into doing again in the future,” said Rinehart.