#SBS24 next month in Manchester! Welcome Wembley Stadium, Oxford United, Juventus FC, Sodexo Live!, Croke Park, Sviby, Stadio Algarve, Keppie Design, Everbank Stadium, Kulture City, PAM, Duracell/Procell, Trusts Arena, Worldpay, Suncorp Stadium... Join them
Driving your revenues, sustainability and fan experience: #SBS24 – 15th annual TheStadiumBusiness Summit in Manchester on 17-18-19 June

Design & Development

Utah Jazz owner targets NHL team, new arena

Featured image credit: Lomrjyo/CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED/Edited for size

Featured image credit: Lomrjyo/CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED/Edited for size

Smith Entertainment Group (SEG), the parent company of the NBA’s Utah Jazz and the team’s Delta Center arena, has formally requested that the NHL initiate an expansion process with the purpose of launching a professional ice hockey franchise in the state of Utah.

SEG said it would be able to immediately welcome an NHL team to Utah as Delta Center could serve as an interim home for the franchise. SEG also owns Major League Soccer team Real Salt Lake and National Women’s Soccer League outfit, the Utah Royals.

The NHL has said that it “appreciates the interest” expressed by SEG to bring a franchise to Utah, and further discussions between the company and the league are planned.

The Seattle Kraken was the most recent addition to the NHL, debuting at Climate Pledge Arena in 2021. Prior to that, the Vegas Golden Knights launched in 2017, playing home games at T-Mobile Arena.

SEG chairman and Jazz governor Ryan Smith said: “SEG envisions a near future where the NHL will thrive in Utah, and we are 100% focused on making this happen as soon as possible.

“We are passionate about sports and entertainment in the state and are committed to providing premium sports and entertainment experiences for the people of Utah and visitors from around the world. We are ready to welcome the NHL and are confident that the time and attention being spent by all parties will bring one of the most exciting and dynamic leagues in the world to our community on a permanent basis.”

Smith, the co-founder of Utah-based tech business management firm Qualtrics, acquired the Jazz and Delta Center in December 2020 for a reported $1.66bn (£1.3bn/€1.5bn). At the time, the venue was known as the Vivint Smart Home Arena but it has been called Delta Center since January 2023.

Led by Smith and his wife Ashley, SEG has been in discussions with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman since early 2022 about the potential expansion of the league into Utah. The team would either join the Jazz at Delta Center on a temporary basis or begin play in the next several years upon the completion of a new “state-of-the-art” arena.

Delta Center has hosted five NHL games since 2018 as part of the Los Angeles Kings’ ‘Frozen Fury’ pre-season exhibition series. The location for a potential new arena has not yet been determined.

SEG’s announcement comes with Salt Lake City having emerged as the frontrunner to host the Winter Olympics in 2034, and Utah Governor Spencer Cox said the addition of an NHL franchise will further enhance the state’s winter sports credentials. A new NHL arena could be used to host events during the Games.

“Utah has a long history with hockey, the strongest economy in the nation, a passionate sports fan base, and the youngest and most active population,” said Cox. “These factors make Utah ripe for the expansion of our sports and entertainment community.

“We couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to welcome the NHL. With the Olympic bid underway, our long-standing reputation as one of the greatest winter sports capitals in the world, and with the proven leadership of Ryan and Ashley Smith and SEG in our community, I am extremely optimistic about the future of Utah.”

Smith added: “All eyes are on Utah for the recent and rapid evolution of our sports landscape, especially with the Utah Royals back this spring and Salt Lake City’s Olympic bid underway. There is so much momentum happening at the state level around global sports and sports infrastructure.

“While Delta Center is ready to serve as an interim solution for an NHL team, Utah will need a new arena designed for professional and Olympic hockey.” 

Utah’s first professional ice hockey team, the Salt Lake Golden Eagles, debuted in 1969 and played until 1994. Currently, the Utah Grizzlies serve as the East Coast Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche.