The Utah Jazz will get a hand to help out half a million dollars in hosting 2023 NBA All-Star Game After Salt Lake County officials redirected public funds to the effort.
In exchange for the contribution, which was approved last month in a 5-3 vote for the county council, the county will get a host of community engagement events associated with this gathering of the league’s brightest stars.
“This is an opportunity to inspire the youth of our community,” Mayor Jenny Wilson said in an interview. “It’s an opportunity to showcase our state.”
Supporters say the spending is a safe bet for the county because revenue from All-Star Game at Vivint Arena The related events on the weekend of February 18 and 19 far outweigh the investment.
However, opponents of the idea of financing a private project for a wealthy company soured, saying that the money would be better spent elsewhere.
$500,000 was collected from county officials reallocating through the room tax that visitors pay when they stay in hotels.
Funds were originally tied to the hospitality program at Salt Lake Community College but became available after the program proved unpopular and the school returned unspent funds.
Wilson said jazz approached the boycott for the money.
What can a boycott get?
The mayor told council members that the investment would help those who couldn’t afford an expensive All-Star Game ticket to participate in the festivities.
County officials have discussed hosting a reading program — complete with appearances of NBA mascots — that could give kids opportunities to win prizes like posters, merchandise or tickets to smaller events over the weekend.
The county also hopes to inject money into youth basketball games at the Salt Palace Convention Center, push former NBA players to appear at a county-owned entertainment center, and create art facilities that the public can try for free.
Team Leader Jim Olson He told council members that community engagement programs would eat up $165,000 of the county’s contribution. The remaining $335,000 will be the amount the team will use in the global tab to host the game.
It’s not clear if the $165,000 Olson was referring to includes the cost of an “exclusive star-class hospitality experience” for county and leadership council members. This potential event was the only idea included in the agenda backup material that was not discussed during the meeting.
None of the community engagement ideas have been finalized, Wilson said.
“There is nothing at this point,” she said.
Wilson said that the proposed hospitality event would not be an opportunity for the parties to wine and dine with elected officials and that such an event would be inappropriate. But she said part of being in a leadership role is hosting.
“There will be people who come into the county and are part of the games we want to participate in,” she said. “…I don’t consider it a negative if it’s done in the right way and for the right reasons.”
Jazz spokesman Frank Zhang said the team has been in talks with county, state and Salt Lake City since 2019, when the league started. Declared the capital of Utah As the host city of the game.
Now that funding from the county has been approved, Zhang said ideas for community involvement can materialize.
“We appreciate (Sat Lake) County’s support to help bring this NBA event into our community for the first time in 30 years,” Zang wrote in an email, “so that a new generation can get the experience.”
The proposal faces opposition
The three council members who voted against the funding — Republicans Richard Sunnegrove, Dee Theodore and Dave Alford — questioned whether supporting the All-Star game was the best use of the county’s money.
“To me, it seems a bit elitist in some ways to allocate money to this when the people out there are struggling, and the county would probably put a lot of money into basketball,” Theodore said during the meeting.
Snelgrove said he wants to look at how room tax money is spent on items in the budget to avoid future tax increases.
Alford is skeptical about whether the contribution to the total cost of organizing the game matches the intent of the law governing how room taxes are spent. (The county says the spending essentially amounts to marketing and is out of service.)
The council member said he would have proposed giving the team $165,000 to pay for community engagement events only, but he was unable to formally propose the idea under the council’s rules.
“I wasn’t comfortable handing a blank check,” Alford wrote in a text message.
The reallocated room tax in the county is limited to community promotion. Alford said he doesn’t think the team has a sufficient explanation for how the extra money will be used.
Publicly backed by the promise of a big reward
Rusty Cannon, president of the business-backed Utah Taxpayers Association, called the board’s decision a reasonable and wise use of the Chamber’s tax money.
“As far as we can tell, no NBA host team has ever made a profit by hosting the All Star Game,” Cannon wrote in an email. “The rewards and benefits actually go back to the host city and the surrounding areas that collect a great deal of the increased sales tax, (room) tax and economic activity associated with the event and those who come to the event.”
The county’s approval of the funding is just the latest contribution of public money to host the event.
The state paid $3 million through the Utah Athletic Commission, and Salt Lake City committed $1 million to public safety employees, shutting down streets and marketing.
Governments tend to be eager to help fund major events such as the All-Star Game due to the expectation of massive economic gains.
Olson, president of Jazz, said the 2022 All-Star Game and related events in Cleveland drew 121,000 people, 47,000 room nights, and $250 million in spending, and generated nearly $50 million in media coverage.
He said he expects the benefits of the Salt Lake City game to last for years.
“Everyone who comes to Utah, comes back,” Olson said. “Who are we. That’s what we have to offer.”
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