Here’s what a Salt Lake City NHL team would mean to a 2034 Winter Games

The Delta Center is seen in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024.
The Delta Center is seen in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024.

A National Hockey League team in Salt Lake City would have a big impact on a 2034 Winter Games.

“We have a great plan now,” said Fraser Bullock, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games that’s behind the bid to bring another Olympics to the state a decade from now. “But with some of these elements that could emerge, it gets even better.”

Relocating the Arizona Coyotes, a Tempe-based NHL team, to Salt Lake City triggers a commitment to remodel the Delta Center to accommodate hockey or even to build a new arena downtown, the key to the 2024 Legislature’s proposal to revitalize the state capital that allows for a 0.5% sales tax increase to help cover the cost.

Expanding seating at the Delta Center as part of a remodel could mean millions of dollars in additional ticket sales for organizers of a 2034 Winter Games, Bullock said. Just as it was for the 2002 Winter Games, the arena is set to hold figure skating and short track speedskating events in 2034.

“More revenue is very healthy for the economics of hosting,” he said. The bid committee’s most recent estimate for putting on a 2034 Winter Games is $2.45 billion, money raised entirely from private sources, primarily the sale of sponsorships, broadcast rights and tickets.

Olympic hockey competitions are set to be held at the Maverick Center in West Valley City and the Peaks Ice Arena in Provo, again just like in 2002. That wouldn’t change if the Delta Center is expanded, but what happens if a new hockey arena is built downtown?

Bullock stopped short of suggesting Olympic hockey competitions could be moved.

“Whatever additional facilities are built, whether it’s a new arena, we’ll look at it as another fantastic alternative for us to consider for our slate of activities,” Bullock said, similar to what Olympic organizers would do if Utah succeeds in attracting a Major League Baseball team and a new stadium for that sport, planned near the Utah State Fairpark, is built.

Previously, suggestions for a baseball stadium focused on the massive temporary jump needed for Big Air snowboard and skiing competitions as well as the nightly medals ceremonies, both now set to be held in the same place as in 2002, on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-owned property on Block 85 downtown.

There are other benefits to the Olympics besides new construction associated with the NHL coming to Utah, Bullock said.

“We know that the best players in the world play in the NHL. They’re phenomenal athletes with incredible ability. For our Games, we always love having the best athletes we can have,” he said. “But we also know they don’t always play in the Olympic Games.”

The last time the NHL interrupted its season so players could go to the Olympics to compete for their home countries was for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Earlier this year, the league announced players would participate in the next two Winter Games, in 2026 and 2030.

“With an NHL team here in Utah, it brings a closer linkage between the NHL and a potential future Games. We would love to have the NHL in 2034,” Bullock said, adding that the new team “really increases our odds of doing so.”

The state’s plans for Salt Lake City, depicted in a recent rendering showing a single massive stadium with the Utah Jazz logo and restaurant-lined streets filled with pedestrians, also recall the experience many had during the 2002 Winter Games when pin trading and other activities attracted Utahns, as well as people around the world, downtown.

“It’s a destination experience right now,” Bullock said of coming to Salt Lake City’s core to eat dinner or see a basketball game and then heading home. The plans, he said, are for a place where people can “just be downtown and experience the great atmosphere. ... It fits in perfectly with the Olympics, because that’s what we want to do at the Games, bring people together.”

The effect an NHL team could have on another Utah Winter Games came up during the International Olympic Committee’s visit to the state last week to see firsthand where events would be held, Bullock said. A final vote by the IOC on Salt Lake City, already the IOC’s “preferred host” for 2034, is expected on July 24, celebrated as Pioneer Day in Utah.