I always wondered when we hosted the 2002 Olympics why Mayor Rocky Anderson and Governor Mike Leavitt didn’t find the money and the priority to cleanup and beautify the ‘Gateway to the Capitol City’ from the airport to North Temple. At the time it was a street with dive motels, fast food and many unkempt properties that basically just made this thoroughfare into Salt Lake City look just plain crappy to our worldwide visitors. Wingpointe Golf course had been open at the airport since 1990 but was of no use for competitions in the sub-zero weather inversion we had during the games. The airport had been spiffed up and TSA secured, as the 9/11 attacks had happened in the U.S. only four months before the Olympic torch was lit in Utah. We didn’t have much snow then and I felt like we were greeting the world wearing flood pants, rope belts and sporting a few missing teeth and it was as if we had bathed but forgot to wash our feet.
Much has happened since then to our fair city, and actually to the entire tri-city area of Ogden, Salt Lake and Provo. TRAX which had opened for the games has expanded to and from the airport and along the valley floors. Artsy little metro stations dot the tracks at major TRAX intersections, a giant 18-field soccer complex voted in by Salt Laker’s in 2003 on 1900 West and 2200 North will be finished next year and now the City and local groups are pondering what to do to finally make North Temple look better and act better. Ponder this: could North Temple ever be a destination point for you other than the occasional stop at the original Red Iguana? This is a necessary discussion because the airport itself is now about to methodically go under the bulldozers between now and 2022. In just 8 years the two terminals will become one, the number of gates will be reduced all (but all will be replaced with ‘Jetways’ (covered walks) to and from planes), with massive shopping, dining and meeting spaces added on both sides of security. There are 20 million passengers currently coming into our 50 year old airport which was designed to handle only 10 million visitors.
Sadly, Wingpointe is not a money maker. The $5 rent the Feds were once charging us for the land has been increased and the lease to Salt Lake City is up in 2017. If I were to look in my crystal ball I’d say that golf at Wingpointe will not be around in a few years and it will become more of a green space and animal habitat than underused links. On the happy side, when you build light rail in cities around the world development usually follows. Planners from Salt Lake City know this and have fast-tracked ideas and zoning proposals to help developers bring in more mixed land uses between the airport and downtown. Non-profit NeighborWorks is interested in getting affordable housing along the North Temple corridor and interviewing community members about their ideas for the area. The transitory daily rentals of hotels does not for a neighborhood make and yet many people consider the area along both sides of North Temple a swell place to call home. The streets around the decrepit State Fairgrounds in the Fairpark neighborhood are wide and the homes affordable. The Euclid neighborhood is a mix of small businesses and historic old homes. People are working to get a better sense of place now between the east and the west of the airport and downtown as well as to the north and south – finally!