Here’s what’s next for SLC’s downtown sports and entertainment district

The Salt Lake City Council is expected to cast the first vote on a major component of the project next week.

Smith Entertainment Group’s proposed downtown sports, entertainment, culture and convention district is getting closer to becoming a reality.

The multibillion-dollar project, on the fast track to gaining approval under a timeline set by the Legislature, has only a few of hurdles to clear before pro sports magnate Ryan Smith can secure a public subsidy to aid in renovating the Delta Center and transforming two other downtown blocks. Smith’s group has pledged at least $3 billion of its own money to the project.

For its part, Salt Lake City is considering a half-a-percentage-point sales tax increase that would allow Utah’s capital to contribute $900 million to the district.

What’s already happened?

Smith kicked off the process in April by submitting an application to negotiate an arena district deal with the city. State lawmakers cleared the way for those negotiations by passing SB272 last legislative session.

Since then, the city has hosted two public hearings on the proposal. The district would include the block that is home to the Delta Center and two other blocks to the east.

Last month, the city’s planning commission rebuffed a zoning request that would allow skyscrapers to be built near the arena, saying the project was moving too fast and that it shouldn’t get special treatment due to the Legislature’s priorities.

On Tuesday, the City Council heard a presentation on the proposed zoning changes. Council members are under no obligation to follow the planning commission’s recommendation.

At the same meeting, the council discussed a proposed agreement with SEG that outlines the public benefits of the project and how the taxpayer money would be spent. It also includes details about potential fines SEG could face if the group moves either the Jazz or the state’s new National Hockey League franchise from the Delta Center.

The accord is a key component of the district that must be approved before the downtown overhaul can begin.

What’s next?

The City Council has scheduled a potential vote on the pact, known within City Hall as the “participation agreement,” for July 9.

If the council approves the agreement, the document would be sent to the Legislature’s Capital City Revitalization Committee for a final review, which may take up to 30 days. During that final review, the committee can either approve or reject the agreement. If it’s rejected, the accord would go back to the city for additional negotiation.

If approved, the city could move forward with a final vote on the agreement. Once the pact is approved, the council could then vote on the tax increase.

The city must finalize the participation agreement no later than Sept. 1. Council members have until Dec. 31 to pass the tax increase.

A public hearing on the zoning request is slated for Aug. 13. A date for a final vote on the changes has not yet been set.

How can residents share their thoughts?

Residents can find their City Council member — and their council member’s contact information — by entering their address through the map below, or through the city’s website at slc.gov/council. Additional options for offering public input are available on the webpage.

Is the council’s vote the final word?

Salt Lake City residents have a path to getting the sales tax increase on the ballot, but it wouldn’t be easy. To force a vote, residents would need to kick off a referendum by gathering thousands of signatures from across the city.