Mendenhall pulls out her biggest microphone to say THE JAZZ NEED TO STAY

The mayor wants to work with the team on a sports and entertainment district that would buzz with activity year-round.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall delivers her State of the City address on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024.

Mayor Erin Mendenhall isn’t mincing words: The Utah Jazz belong in Utah’s capital.

It’s not just what’s best for Salt Lake City, she said Tuesday night in her annual State of the City address, but also what’s best for the state.

“Salt Lake City serves as the center of commerce, transportation, finance, law, sports, entertainment, faith and culture in the Mountain West,” the recently reelected Mendenhall told a crowd at downtown’s Eccles Theater. “If the city suffers, the region suffers.”

Her comments come as Jazz owner Ryan Smith explores the possibility of uprooting the team from its decadeslong home downtown and replanting it in Draper.

The mayor’s proposal to keep the NBA team downtown calls for a sports and entertainment district that gives fans an experience that extends beyond basketball and is offered before, during and after games.

“This is not only possible in our downtown,” she said in a prepared transcript, “but it is requisite for us to evolve our public spaces to meet our future potential.”

Building such a district, Mendenhall said, could mean an Olympic Medals Plaza isn’t just a temporary amenity in a downtown parking lot. It also could boost Visit Salt Lake’s ability to recruit events and keep the area buzzing 365 days a year.

“We will work with our beloved Utah Jazz organization, downtown stakeholders, county and state leaders, and anyone who has aspirations of bringing professional sports,” she said, “to make this future a reality.”

And various players are courting other pro franchises.

Mendenhall noted that the prospect of scoring Major League Baseball and National Hockey League teams “amplifies our city’s values and vision of expanding sports and entertainment experiences” that connect residents and visitors.

SLC green loop a ‘transformational project’

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall delivers her State of the City address on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024.

Mendenhall’s pitch to preserve and enhance downtown sports with an entertainment district fits into her wider vision of a more pedestrian-, bike- and family-friendly area.

To serve more people out on the bustling downtown streets, Mendenhall wants to begin building a “green loop,” converting asphalt to open space and spurring more recreational opportunities with what she described as a “transformational project.”

She likened the proposed five-mile loop around downtown to The High Line in New York City, Millennium Park in Chicago and the BeltLine in Atlanta.

“The Green Loop will be distinctly ‘Salt Lake,’” she said, “but it will also cement our place in the world as a truly great city.”

Mendenhall said the loop, which she wants to see open in time for the return of the Winter Olympics in 2034, would not only serve downtown but also the west side by creating another connection to the historically underserved part of town.

“My administration will utilize every tool and partnership,” she said, “to ensure this community benefit improves our livability, economy and environment for decades.”

Open streets, family opportunities

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall delivers her State of the City address on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024.

In the more immediate future, Mendenhall is pressing a proposal to set aside Main Street from South Temple to 400 South as a permanent pedestrian promenade.

The mayor said when Main Street has temporarily shut down to cars, businesses have benefited from greater revenue. Residents, she said, overwhelmingly support reducing traffic on the street.

Mendenhall’s administration plans to submit a conceptual design and cost estimates for a promenade to the City Council next month.

The mayor, now in her second term, said she is eager to establish a more family-focused downtown.

“The reality is that in any growing city in this country,” she said, “if the city government isn’t deeply involved in making sure families can thrive, they will be built out.

Mendenhall said she will direct her staff to craft a loan program to help nurture more child care facilities, find opportunities to cultivate micro-parks, and identify more family features on city-owned properties.

“Building families back into our city,” she said, “is something every one of us should all rally around.”