Letter: If it comes to it, there are forces ready to protest to save Abravanel Hall from the hockey monster

The new NHL franchise in Salt Lake City could be a great boost to downtown. Unfortunately, the plans are a big secret instead of getting a timely public airing.

Perhaps the secrecy has roots in the reason the team is leaving Arizona. There, a big public drama over funding a new arena ended with a spectacular rejection by the voters in Tempe. No such drama awaits the team here, unless … some ill-informed person tries to destroy the iconic Abravanel Hall.

The building was ambitious for a small city in 1979 — a single-minded gift to concert music, not a mish-mash intended for opera, ballet and theater. This allows it to enjoy the sight lines, acoustics and spatial magic that enhance the big-sound interior. The golden staircase and red glass Chihuly (2002) sculpture grab the viewer from the outside. Inside you are transported to a much more sophisticated city — the lobby glass reflects the nearby monuments, as well as city lights and movement. The experience of entering, gliding up the grand staircase, and looking down and out to the city is truly unique.

Even thinking about destroying this work of love, ambition and art that anchors our city raises the ire of so many. A replacement hall would take years to build and would likely have inferior acoustics and insensitive siting.

On the other hand, what downtown really needs is a decent opera house. Despite the renovation of Capitol Theater, this venue has none of the grace and glamor represented so well by Abravanel Hall. Building a new space for opera and ballet adjacent to our historic concert hall would create a great anchor for the sports and entertainment district.

Granted, it’s hard to react to a plan that no one can see. Public reactions to ghost plans like this can often be termed, “too early” or “too late.” But I know there are forces ready to protest by occupying the gold staircase to save Abravanel Hall from the hockey monster. My advice: think opera.

Brenda (Bree) Scheer, emeritus professor and former dean of Architecture and Planning at the University of Utah and a Salt Lake City planning commissioner, Salt Lake City

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