Salt Lake City approves $22M in tax incentives for Jazz arena upgrade

SALT LAKE CITY -- The city of Salt Lake City approved $22.7 million in tax incentives Tuesday for the Utah Jazz's planned $125 million arena upgrade.

The Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency board voted 6-0 for a proposal from the Larry H. Miller Group, which owns the Jazz.

"Very thankful for the support we received today," Jazz president Steve Starks said. "We've had great conversations to this point with all stakeholders, and they're excited about the future of the renovation and what it means for our community and the state and Jazz fans. Today's vote represents the support the community has always had for the organization."

The tax reimbursement is part of an established incentive program. The Jazz will receive the money only if the value of the arena and the property taxes increase as a result of the improvements. The money would be paid out through the year 2040.

The Jazz plan to pay up front for the upgrades at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

The arena was built in 1991 for $90 million, including $24 million in public money. It is the oldest arena in the NBA that has not undergone a major renovation.

Several opponents to the proposal voiced their disapproval at the meeting, including the Utah chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group.

"The Miller Corporation is a billion-dollar corporation with more than enough means necessary to fund this project without tax dollars," Americans for Prosperity state director Evelyn Everton said. "This is the very definition of corporate welfare, and this practice must stop."

Details of the renovation have not been released. However, the team said the project will include upgrades for safety and security and modernize technology within the building.

"This approach puts the burden on us to create the value," Starks said. "And then we share in an incremental portion of that value that we create. So there's really no risk to the city. If the value isn't created, then there's no reimbursement to us."

Starks said the Miller group will not make any request of the state that impacts existing budgets or that take away from an existing program. GSBS Consulting conducted an economic impact analysis and representative Christine Richman said it showed a significant return on investment for Salt Lake City because, in part, the city benefits from the activities in the area near the arena.

The arena hosts 1.8 million visitors and 100 events annually, according to the team. It houses the Jazz and hosted events for the 2002 Winter Olympics, an NBA All-Star Game and the NBA Finals. Renovations will begin this offseason with the bulk of the work being done after the 2016-17 NBA season and will be completed before the 2017-18 season.