Public money going into a private company’s event.
Five hundred thousand dollars in public funding is going to the National Basketball Association’s Utah Jazz franchise to help the business promote the 2023 NBA All-Star Game that will be held in the city in February. The Salt Lake City County Council decided a private business that figures to make millions of dollars from the two-day event is worth the investment because of kids. It’s great for the youth of Utah even though most of those kids will not be able to walk into the Salt Lake City arena to watch a basketball game because the ticket prices are far too high for them and their families. The $500,000 comes from a hotel-motel tax. Salt Lake City Mayor Jenny Wilson said, “this is an opportunity to inspire the youth of our community. It’s an opportunity to showcase our state.” That is generally the same line you hear from elected officials from around the country, people are going to discover our area through a sporting event and it shows our area is open for business. And think of the economic impact for us. But events come and go and once the event leaves town, local taxpayers are left with the bill.
The $500,000 was earmarked for a Salt Lake Community College hospitality program, but the money became available after the program failed and the college returned the money. The Utah Jazz requested money from local elected officials to help promote the All-Star Game. Jazz chairman Jim Olson said $165,000 would go to community engagement programs and the rest of the $335,000 would be used for promotions. The community engagement programs could allow kids to win prizes such as stickers, merchandise or tickets to smaller events over the All-Star weekend. Utah is also kicking in about $4 million to help the NBA, a private business, with All Star Game expenses.
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