Bill helps pay for $335M convention center-hotel in SLC

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SALT LAKE CITY - A bill that would help fund a mega-hotel in downtown Salt Lake City with taxpayer dollars made it out of a Senate committee on Tuesday.

Salt Lake City's Salt Palace holds numerous big conventions every year, including the Outdoor Retailer shows in summer and winter that bring $40 million to the local economy. But some convention-goers say the lack of hotel accommodations has them considering other locations.

The proposed mega-hotel, which would cost about $335 million, would have around 1,000 rooms and be connected to the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City.

Under Senate Bill 267, the developer would pay the entire cost of building the hotel, but Utah taxpayers would put in around $100 million for convention space and parking structures.

That $100 million bill would be split between Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County and the state of Utah; about $67 million from Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County, and $32.5 million from the state.

Supporters say the hotel and convention center would be a big benefit to the city and is worth the cost to build.

"We're in a competition with other cities and to bring conventions like Outdoor Retailers and others here. We need to do something to improve the competitiveness of Salt Lake City," said David Webster with Western States Lodging.

But some say that taxpayers shouldn't be funding businesses.

"Taxpayers simply shouldn't be funding what the private sector should be doing. Business is the province of business, not government," said Royce Van Tassell, vice president of the Utah Taxpayers Association.

If lawmakers pass the bill and the hotel makes money, the developer will receive tax rebates for the next 20 years, but some say the new convention center-hotel would be unfair to other nearby hotels.

"What we do have issue with is a competitive advantage that a convention center-hotel would get by virtue of tax incentives," said Jordan Garn with the Utah Hotel and Lodging Association.

Despite some opposition, SB 267 moved out of the Economic Development Committee with a nearly unanimous vote. It now heads to the Senate floor.