It was 25 years ago when Salt Lake City, then one of the fledgling NBA markets, last felt the NBA spotlight for All-Star Weekend.
The Jazz think it’s about time they got it back.
The franchise will bid to host All-Star Weekend in either 2022 or 2023 — a sign of the Jazz’s confidence in their $125 million arena renovation this past offseason, the growth of Salt Lake City as a market and their own maturity as an NBA team. Jazz president Steve Starks said in the next two or three weeks, the organization will tout its town to land the NBA’s premier regular-season event.
“We knew that with the renovation of the arena, that would be a catalyst to be able to get into that conversation again,” he said. “The fact that the arena has been returned to first-class, and that it’s so unique and special combined with all the other factors, we felt like now is the best time to be able to tell our story.”
That story is one of a growing state that has hosted the Winter Olympics since 1993 and annually welcomes in crowds for events as diverse as the LDS Church General Conference, the Sundance Film Festival and numerous large conventions. In the 25 years since Utah last hosted the All-Star Game, the state has added thousands of hotel rooms, updated its light-rail system and seen technology companies take root. By 2022, the $3 billion renovation to the Salt Lake City Airport is expected to be mostly complete.
The bidding project is being headed up by Jazz executive Donald Stirling, but an exploratory committee to bring the All-Star Game to Utah has gotten input from power players around the state. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, an avid and vocal Jazz fan, has been in discussions about hosting the game, which ties heavily into his own state pride.
“The feelings that stir up were the feelings I had in 1993 [during the All-Star Game] as a 17-year-old kid, the pride that we saw as the spotlight was on Salt Lake City,” Cox told The Tribune. “As much as any sports team, the Jazz have done a tremendous job representing the entire state of Utah, not just Salt Lake City. And when we want to showcase the best of our state, the Jazz are a part of that.”
The Jazz plan to sell convenience as one of the site’s major benefits: The airport, Delta Air Lines’ western hub, is conveniently located a few miles away from downtown, and many of the city’s largest hotels are in walking distance of Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Jazz would plan to host fan events at the Salt Palace and secondary events at the University of Utah.
Other business partnerships will play a role in the bid: Starks said one of the ideas the Jazz have come up with is to partner with Sundance filmmakers and to make documentaries in conjunction with All-Star Weekend, and potentially slot them for a release as the game approaches.
More ideas are being bounced in the committee, which also has representatives from the mayor’s office and the state Legislature.
“The support all across the board is unanimous,” Starks said. “That’s fun to see, too. … We have the key stakeholders lined up and ready to go.”
The Jazz say they’re still ironing out how the bidding process works, but they’re working with the NBA to figure out how to build their best possible portfolio. Salt Lake City is still one of the NBA’s smallest markets, but in one way, that’s an advantage; it’s easier to make the moving parts come together to form a competitive bid.
Cox, who attended the Jazz’s win over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, said he felt a unique kind of pride not just watching Utah trounce the defending NBA champions, but also wearing state-themed jerseys and playing on a court featuring Delicate Arch.
He hopes that by hosting All-Star Weekend, the state will show the world what he already sees. And he — along with the Jazz — believes the wheels are turning to help that happen.
“That kind of collaboration and cooperation is something that sets Utah apart,” he said. “We’ve got 3 million people here, so we are able to work together and collaborate. We pull for each other, and we recognize how important we are and how much we pull on each other.”