For years, the sign for South Towne Exposition Center irritated Sandy city officials and embarrassed their Salt Lake County counterparts.
Old-fashioned and static, the sign completely lacked the electronic messaging capabilities to inform the public about what’s going on now or next week at the county-owned Expo Center. Exhibitors would hang banners from it, advertising their events, and drape signs on a trailer near the 243,000-square-foot building.
The number of visitors to South Towne Exposition Center in the last three years for which figures are available:
2012 » 719,000
2011 » 657,000
2010 » 607,000
Source: Visit Salt Lake and SMG, which manages South Towne and the Salt Palace Convention Center.
"It looks tacky," said Michael Coulam, director of Sandy’s community development department. "We wanted something that looked more professional, like it was part of the facility."
Sandy has every right to have high expectations, the Salt Lake County Council agreed Tuesday, voting 8-1 to spend an additional $264,000 to replace the existing sign and to erect a second sign at 9400 S. State, South Towne’s northern end. That makes the total project cost $564,000.
"The South Towne Exposition Center is one of the top facilities of its kind in the country," said Max Burdic, the county councilman whose district includes Sandy. "It deserves this quality of sign, which is well designed to meet the architectural elements of the Expo Center itself."
"I’m a little embarrassed we haven’t lived up to our commitment to put a marquee [sign] here," said Council Chairman Michael Jensen. "Shame on us."
Especially, added Councilman Steve DeBry, since hundreds of thousands of people attend trade shows and youth sporting events there every year.
"That Expo Center is worth tens of millions of dollars," he said, no thanks to the inadequate existing sign. "You don’t put old Volkswagen hubcaps on a Maserati."
The council put $300,000 into the 2014 budget to replace the existing sign, but Sandy officials wanted a second sign at 9400 S. State, said county Community Services Director Erin Litvack. The extra money will be diverted from a planned escalator project in the Salt Palace Convention Center.
At some future date, Litvack said, the county also should install a third sign farther east along 9400 South.
Councilman Richard Snelgrove questioned the need to make such a large investment in new signs.
"Will this expenditure of real money have an impact? I think it will be negligible," Snelgrove said before voting no, bristling particularly at the request for the second sign. "We can live up to our commitment to Sandy with the original [$300,000] expenditure. We’re going grandiose, all Taj Mahal."
But Councilman Randy Horiuchi said proper signage at one of the most visible county-owned facilities will help the public understand better what Salt Lake County government does for them.
"The Expo Center ranks with the Salt Palace and the county jail as the county edifices we’ve built that the public sees most," he said. "If you have incomplete or goofy signage, it makes us look bad."
Sandy’s Coulam believes the county will help South Towne and the city’s entertainment district with more attractive signs displaying promotional messages.
"They needed some space [on their sign] to let people know what’s happening in the community," he said, contending the Expo Center complements Rio Tinto Stadium and Jordan Commons as people-drawing magnets for the city.
"There’s a real entertainment component in and around that area," Coulam said. "It creates a synergy with all those restaurants and the chance to go to a game, a show or an event."
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