Orchestra fans worry downtown sports district could spell the end of Abravanel Hall

May 08, 2024 (Salt Lake City Weekly)

The Day the Music Died
The creative tension between sports and arts may be a given—but the existential battle for dominance in Salt Lake City is not. The city and state governments have been giddy at the prospect of hosting major league sports in downtown, but now the effort appears to be at the expense of the Utah Symphony. The Legislature has authorized financing to help a National Hockey League team settle in. It’s all about pleasing Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith, who wants to build a sports and entertainment district on the public’s dime. The Salt Palace, Japantown and Abravanel Hall could be toast. Abravanel Hall was moved from Temple Square in 1979 for its acoustics, eventually housing an Olympics Chihuly glass statue in the lobby. There is hope in a petition raising money to fight the destruction. “Ryan Smith’s current plans could force a major renovation or even the destruction of this historic and beautiful building,” the petition says. “The Utah Symphony would have no place to play and the performing arts in Utah could come to a standstill—possibly ending the orchestra as we know it.”

Just ask Janalee Tobias about “SLAPP” suits. In the late ’90s, she and Judy Feld began a years-long court fight against Anderson Development Co. over a proposed commercial development near the Jordan River. It resulted in a law to prevent abusive litigation—a “strategic lawsuits against public participation” policy, or SLAPP. But it wasn’t until 2023 that the governor signed a strengthened SLAPP law. Now the Millard County Chronicle Progress is fighting against just such a lawsuit. A Utah land developer is suing the small rural newspaper for libel, claiming it defamed him. In fact, much of his claims came from the public record, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. And there was no obvious malicious intent by the newspaper or its reporter. Whether the lawsuit was malicious will depend on the ruling.

Life Aggravated
A recent survey from the Utah Foundation was stunning in how it highlighted the political divisions in The Beehive State. First, let’s just take a moment to recognize that 60% of survey respondents believe the state is on the wrong track, and things aren’t as good as they were five years ago. But the list of voter issues may just say everything. Nowhere on the list of majoritarian Republican priorities is women’s rights—nowhere. Also missing are homelessness and air quality. Let’s try to figure out why. Could it be that most Republicans don’t live in urban areas where homelessness exists and where the air is toxic? As for women’s rights, who knows? It may be that Utah Republican women are just accustomed to the patriarchal society that undergirds the state’s politics.

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