Salt Lake City Short on Pizazz, Long on Family

By McGraw, Mike | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), June 6, 1997 | Go to article overview
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Salt Lake City Short on Pizazz, Long on Family


McGraw, Mike, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Mike McGraw Daily Herald Sports Writer

SALT LAKE CITY - A small town, people who are a little different, very few minorities...

Heck, all that didn't prevent the Green Bay Packers from winning the Super Bowl.

Salt Lake City may have little in common with the modest metropolis of Green Bay, Wis. Skiing, for example, would be a more popular Utah activity than deer hunting.

In Green Bay, sports fans can celebrate a victory at any of numerous local taverns. In Salt Lake City, such places do not exist.

In many ways, though, Salt Lake is the Green Bay of the NBA.

The Utah Jazz plays in the league's smallest market. It's a town shunned by many NBA players.

Dallas guard Derek Harper refused a trade to the Jazz earlier this year, preferring to stick with the lowly Mavericks than live in Utah for a few months.

Bulls center Brian Williams has been telling people this week he turned down a $1 million offer from the Jazz to sign with Chicago for the pro-rated league minimum.

Why? Williams mentioned a lake that smells bad and a "stiff and homogenized" community.

"It would have only been for three months, but I don't know if I could have taken it for three months," said Williams, who grew up in Las Vegas, among other places.

"There's not a lot of night life," admitted University of Utah basketball coach Rick Majerus, who used to work in the Midwest at Marquette and Ball State.

"If you can get a double scoop of vanilla bean on your apple pie at night in the pancake house, that's a big night in Utah. It's just not a town to get down and boogie and party hearty."

How small exactly is Salt Lake City?

- For starters, be aware that 2.7 million people live in the city of Chicago, while 1.7 million live in the entire state of Utah.

- In the 1990 census, Salt Lake did not break the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. Fort Wayne, Ind. was No. 99. The current population of Salt Lake City is estimated at 168,000.

- Only two smaller metropolitan areas have major league sports teams - Green Bay and Jacksonville, Fla. The entire Salt Lake region, including Ogden 30 miles to the north, contains roughly a million people.

- The racial makeup of Salt Lake is 1.7 percent African-American.

The city is actually too small to hold the Bulls. To find adequate hotel space, the Bulls will be headquartered in Park City, about 20 miles into the mountains.

When asked what he plans to do for a week in Utah, Dennis Rodman offered a two-dimensional plan: Import rock stars and fly to Las Vegas.

Most members of the Jazz have nothing bad to say about Utah. They'll mention the low crime and lack of traffic. Karl Malone has said Salt Lake City is the best thing that ever happened to him.

"I'm from the country (Summerfield, La.) and Utah has fit me real well," Malone said. "To play on this team, you've got to be a little laid back. If we're going to get any endorsements, it would be outdoors kind of stuff.

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