The roots of the NBA and Salt Lake City can be traced back to 1979, when the New Orleans
Jazz arrived in Utah to begin play at the small yet intimate Salt Palace. This undersized
13,000 seat arena served the club well through its early struggles. But as the team
improved during the decade of the eighties, it became clear the facility was not capable of
keeping up with the demand for tickets, nor was it going to be able to maintain the Jazz as
a financially viable entity well into the future. With that in mind, the shovels went into the
ground in May of 1990 for a replacement facility. And just a scant 17 months later, the Delta
Center was dedicated as one of the NBA's newest showplaces.
Outside the venue
The Delta Center sits on the plot of land on the western edge of downtown Salt Lake.
Transportation wise, this is an easy venue to reach, as it is a quick hop and a jump from the
I-15 and the city's light rail system has a station that drops Jazz fans off just a few yards
from the arena's main marquee. Parking is not difficult here as the immediate
surroundings offer plenty of affordable lots and if you arrive early enough, free on street
parking is available.
There are also plenty of establishments within a short walk of the arena for those who like
to have some food and drink, or maybe just drink...wait a sec...Salt Lake City?.maybe not!
Actually, there is one area of note just west of the arena simply known as the Gateway. This
spectacular complex stretches for several blocks and offers soooo much in the way of
retail and entertainment. The Gateway just recently opened at the time of our arrival so the
finishing touches have not yet been applied. Even so, there already is a full scale
multi-theater movie complex, a food court, and several new shops with many more to come
before February 2002. Oh yeah...that Winter Olympics thing, which brings us to the North
end of the Gateway where Olympic Legacy Plaza sits. At this end of the Gateway there are
fountains, colorfully tiled mosaics, and more, all amidst plenty of public space as it appears
that this will be one of the main meeting places for visitors during the upcoming Olympic
Winter Games. Wish we could be there!!
Once on the Delta Center grounds itself, you'll note that the building sits diagonally in the
middle of a square lot. This design helps to create plenty of room for a public plaza at the
northeast corner. The well manicured landscaping enhances the overall look. While the
design here is attractive, we couldn't help but notice the complete lack of activity in this
public area. Not much in the way of vendors, music, interactive games and the like here.
After taking a quick glance at the building's gray concrete façade with its terrific two way
glass exterior (one can see the insides quite clearly) we decided to head inside and
experience a night of NBA basketball, Jazz style.
This is a two concourse facility serving the two main seating areas of the arena. As in many
of the venues we've visited, it is the lower concourse that provides most of the points of
interest worth mentioning. Not much trouble to be had walking out and about here,
especially in the four corners of the building where the design of the seating bowl makes
these areas larger than at the baseline/sideline portions of the concourse. In one of these
corners is a food court with plenty of seating areas. Also in this concourse is the team shop
with everything Jazz, and a few Starzz can be seen as well whether you want to or not! Also
located on some of the inner walls of the lower concourse are memorabilia displays of
great athletes of the State of Utah and more objects depicting the great moments of Jazz
In these times of conflict, the Delta Center has added a nice touch here, with the patriotic
murals of local school children hanging from the railing of the upper concourse. These
murals add some much needed color to a facility that oozes the color of concrete gray from
almost every possible spot in the building.
The upper concourse here is very basic, concession and merchandise stands, etc. Yet
from most spots upstairs a fan can look from the railing opposite the seating area alcoves
and either see the action on the lower concourse, (including the team store...which has no
ceiling to speak of) or of course the glass façade of the building itself and its view of
Pretty standard fare here for the most part, especially in the permanent food stands.
Though they do have some big names such as Pizza Hut in here. And just in case you were
wondering, yes they do serve alcohol here in Salt Lake. If you are looking for the off beat
items, then go check out the aformentioned food court, with carving stations for hot and
cold subs, salads made to order and even tropical drinks.
19,911 seats, mostly light green are in the seating bowl and are split into two levels.
Sandwiched in between the two is a ring of suites for those of you who would rather watch
the game on TV and be there at the same time. The ads and dot matrix message boards are
on the suite level balcony...no biggie here as the Delta Center has no LED boards or
scrolling ads to speak of, just your basic mishmash of backlit ad panels and message
boards. At least they have the out of town scores here! There also doesn't appear to be
any of the preferred club seating seen at so many other venues here. Tucked in the
corners at the top of the rafters is what appears to be four party suites, but with bad
viewing angles they don't seem to get much use.
Retired Numbers and Banners
One of the brighter spots about the Delta Center has been the on court performance of the
primary tenants. For the past fifteen years and without exception, the Utah Jazz have been
at very least a darkhorse contender for a spot in the NBA Finals. During this amazing run,
the Jazz have won the Midwest Division title five times and have been to the Finals twice,
both times falling to the vaunted Bulls dynasty. Banners celebrating every one of these
division and conference titles can be found hanging above one of the baselines. Opposite
these banners are where retired numbers are hung, four banners honoring the late
"Pistol" Pete Maravich, former coach/GM Frank Layden, Darrell Griffith, and Mark Eaton,
who at 7'4" and 300 something pounds may have simply taken his jersey off and hung it
there himself. And regardless of what Peter may wish to tell you, he was NOT named for the
You can bet there are two spaces already reserved for John Stockton and Karl Malone
whenever (if ever!!) they call it a career.
Slam Dunks, Assists, and Fouls
Assist - As in Buffalo, a light rail station drops people off at the foot of the Delta Center.
Here in Salt Lake, there are automated token dispensers at some of the arena exits for
those who are traveling by rail to and from the game, as well as a map display of the entire
system. Might we suggest something similar for the patrons at HSBC??
Assist (literally) to the employees of the Salt Lake CVB who gave a helping hand to a couple
of tourists from Buffalo in search of things to see during our short stint there. Thanks again
folks, we had a great time!
By the way, the CVB is located as part of the old Salt Palace, and speaking of that old place?
Foul-(Sort of) The Salt Palace underwent a huge renovation in the mid 90's and it looks
absolutely nothing like a basketball arena, or like any basketball arena ever existed there.
That kind of peeved us just a bit (OK, just Peter) as we like to visit old hallowed grounds.
They did do a splendid job with the refurbishment though.
Slam Dunk- No mention of Salt Lake City is complete without a few words about the main
campus of the Church of Latter Day Saints. The main temple is a spectacular work of
architecture and with beautiful fountains about and several statues of the Smith family (the
founders of this faith), it is a real slice of Americana not quite found anywhere else!
A well designed arena with all of the amenities found in a modern venue with lush
landscaping on its outside. That being said, the venue truly lacks a charm and an ambience
found in many other places we've visited. The concrete with which this facility was built
simply dominates the look and feel of this venue and that truly takes away from an
otherwise splendid facility. Suggestion time folks: decorate this place with some large
banners and splash plenty of other colors here to help make what is a nice venue a whole
lot better. In other words...Jazz this place up a bit!!!
However, we know now what the rest of the world will find out in about three months or so.
Salt Lake City is a splendid place?too bad we won't be there when everyone else will be!!
Food and team store 4.5
Scoreboard and electronics 3.5
Fan support 7
Location and neighborhood 6
Banners and history 6.5
In game entertainment 5
Concourses/fan comfort 7
Bonus: Gateway next door 2; ease of access downtown 2