The Delta Center is back: Utah Jazz, airline announce long-term naming rights agreement for downtown arena

Vivint Arena will officially be renamed July 1.

(Photo courtesy Utah Jazz) The Utah Jazz announced Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, the arena will once again be named Delta Center with a new agreement with Delta Air Lines.

Many residents never stopped calling downtown Salt Lake City’s arena the Delta Center — even though officially the building changed its name all the way back in 2006.

They’ll soon be right again.

The Utah Jazz announced Saturday that they have entered into a long-term naming rights deal with Delta Air Lines, the Atlanta-based airline with a hub at the Salt Lake City International Airport. The arena will continue to be referred to as Vivint Arena until July 1, when the changeover will officially take place.

Terms of the deal were not released, but Jazz owner Ryan Smith told The Salt Lake Tribune that the intention is to keep the Delta Center name for decades to come. Last week, The Tribune reported that Delta had signed a lease extension with Salt Lake City to keep the carrier’s hub in Utah through at least mid-2044, with an option for another 10 years beyond that. Sports business publication Sportico spoke to experts who estimated the deal as being worth $6 million to $8 million a year.

“Our commitment to this community is evident. It’s our fourth largest airport in the world; Delta Air Lines flies 250 flights a day and growing,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said. “There’s billions of dollars that we trust with the city and the community, but there was always something missing.”

Come July 1, the Delta Center logo will be back on the exterior of the building. The team’s Delta club on the stadium’s lower level will also get a refresh. One of the first events at the renamed arena will be the Salt Lake City Summer League, later that week.

Saturday’s 1 p.m. news conference featured a number of big names: Bastian, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, and Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson all were in attendance. From the Jazz side of things, Smith and wife Ashley, former owner Gail Miller, head coach Will Hardy, CEO Danny Ainge, and even former All-Stars Deron Williams, Mehmet Okur and Leonard “Truck” Robinson appeared.

(Gabby Stockard | Utah Jazz)

The arena first was called the Delta Center upon its opening in 1991. Delta filed for bankruptcy in 2005, citing rising fuel costs and faced with more low-cost competition, and did not renew its sponsorship agreement with the team in 2006. The airline emerged from bankruptcy 19 months later.

“We went through a difficult time following 9/11, the whole airline industry did. We had to make some tough decisions to save costs fast. I was the one in the chair and made the decision to take the name off the arena, and 16 years later it still haunts me,” Bastian said. “It’s a real honor to be back. They say homecomings are sweet, 16 years later, this is really special.”

In the interim, the Jazz sold the naming rights to the stadium to low-level nuclear waste processing company EnergySolutions. Vivint Smart Home bought the naming rights to the stadium for 10 years in 2015. (In 2020, the “Smart Home” part of the arena name was dropped.)

Vivint’s deal was not set to expire until 2025. However, concurrently with the Delta arrangement, Vivint agreed to a new sponsorship agreement with the Smith Entertainment Group, the company that owns the Jazz and the arena. Under the renegotiated deal, which extends through the 2030 season, Vivint will retain the rights to its courtside suite, along with in-game promotions, advertising packages, and digital ads placed on the court during the team’s TV broadcasts.

“No company is a bigger fan of the Jazz organization than Vivint and we look forward to continuing our partnership,” Vivint chief revenue officer of Vivint Smart Home Todd Santiago said in a statement.

“They’re Jazz fans, and everyone knows what this means,” Smith said. “I think this is probably the only naming rights deal where Vivint would work with us to do this.”

As for the deal with Delta, it came together after Smith and Bastian attended a game in Atlanta together in 2021. The discussion of the old Delta Center name came up, and Bastian told Smith he wanted to pursue rekindling the naming rights deal.

“If there was ever an opportunity to do something that made that right, I would be very interested in considering that,” Bastian said he told Smith.

And Bastian wanted to keep Delta in Salt Lake City, and the Delta Center name, for the long haul. “This is far deeper than just a name on a building or a sponsorship deal,” Bastian said. “There’s real roots here, and we want to continue to bring Utah to the world and the world to Utah. The fact that we’re coming back in here, and putting a real great brand with 5,000 employees behind it here — we’re never going to leave.”

Both Bastian and Smith know the rekindling of the Delta Center name will be nostalgic for Utahns.

“It’s not even the name, it’s the memories, like going into the arena as a kid with my grandfather,” Smith said. “I see Mehmet over there and the other past players — when we say ‘Once a Jazzman, always a Jazzman,’ this is your home.”