Utah Jazz closing in on finish line for Vivint Arena renovation

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Workers put the finishing touches on the remodel of the Vivint Smart Home Arena, It should be finished in one more week. Friday, September 15, 2017.

The renovation of Vivint Smart Home Arena has entered the final and most difficult phase: The race against time.

With less than two weeks before a scheduled Faith Hill and Tim McGraw concert, 500 construction workers through all six levels of the Arena are pulling 18-hour shifts. Every detail is carefully planned, as many work assignments are not only on a specific floor of the arena, but down to the specific room that needs work.

Utah Jazz President Steve Starks acknowledges the pressure of the start date and that there have been a lot of late nights. Starks took The Tribune on a tour Friday morning detailing the $125 million renovation.

Key Dates for Vivint Smart Home Arena<br>Sept. 21: A concert for employees, workers and Jazz players, featuring Rachel Platten<br>Sept. 26: Open houses begin<br>Sept. 27: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw concert<br>Oct. 2: Jazz preseason opener vs. Sydney Kings<br>Oct. 18: Formal opening ceremony<br>Oct. 18: Jazz season opener vs. Denver Nuggets

The arena is still crawling with workers, as it has been throughout the summer. But Starks believes the workers from Okland Construction will finish the renovations with days to spare. A celebratory concert featuring Rachel Platten awaits employees and workers Thursday as a way to say thank-you to the people who have sacrificed so much of their time this summer, and as a dry run for the end of the month.

“We need people using the building,” Starks said. “We need to know if there’s anything left to do.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Workers put the finishing touches on the remodel of the Vivint Smart Home Arena, It should be finished in one more week. Friday, September 15, 2017.

Starks describes the current situation as being “on the 3-yard line after we‘ve driven 97 yards.” Landscaping has commenced on the edges of the arena, finishing touches to the carpet are being put in on the sixth floor, and an arena that opened in 1991 will look brand new.

“We love how it’s turning out,” Starks said. “We believe it will be first class within the NBA. We believe our fans will be proud and be able to call it home.”

The seats are now cushioned — even in the upper bowl. The court itself will be the same, but the seat colors have changed from green to blue. The lighting will center more on the court and be slightly dimmed in the crowd, similar to the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The club level has been moved to the second floor, and will be the largest such space for club seating in the NBA. The arena will have Wi-Fi for the first time, and the sixth floor will feature a fan zone, where fans can converse with each other while watching the game on the floor — or on one of the big screen televisions.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The new Club section in the Vivint Smart Home Arena, Friday, September 15, 2017.

“We want the fans to be connected before, during and after the game,” Starks said. “We have all new seats and all new risers. There is literally not a bad seat in the house.”

The concourse level where fans will spend much of their time features several new restaurants and food options. The Jazz locker room has been redone and has doubled in size. A special J Note statue goes up next week outside, and will be one of the final major pieces.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) New standing area, in the Vivint Smart Home Arena from the upper level. Friday, September 15, 2017.

“We’ll still have to hang a picture here and there, but we’re going to be ready to go,” Starks said.

The renovation will extend the Arena’s lifespan at least 25 years, and the official formal ceremony is scheduled for Oct. 18, when the Jazz host the Denver Nuggets in the regular-season home opener. Open houses will start Sept. 26, and the Jazz will have three home preseason games.

Because of the short timeline to complete construction, Starks said the most difficult part was the planning and the preparation. The actual construction went off without much issue.

Now that the finished product is on hand, Starks can finally take a breath. And then it’s off to the next project: The regular season for the Utah Jazz.