SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH — The Utah Jazz played in what would have been their first home playoff game of the 2019-2020 season Friday afternoon.
But instead of playing for a sold-out crowd at Vivint SmartHome Arena, the team is in Orlando, Florida, which is having an economic impact on downtown Salt Lake City businesses.
For less than six months, Krystle Schofield’s business “Float On” sold sweet treats at the arena on the so-called ‘dessert row.'
“We were always busy especially during the halftime. It was our first year so we were just getting our name out there, but we were finally there,” said Schofield.
She could count on making a couple thousand dollars each game with gourmet ice cream floats and edible cookie dough.
“We were excited for the playoffs because obviously more people are going to come, get more exposure. More people we get to see,” Schofield said.
After five months, the games are back on, yet the arena stays quiet.
“Right now, the only people in the arena are the Jazz broadcasters who are doing remote broadcasting for radio and television as they just watch the game on the big video boards on the arena,” said Utah Jazz spokesman Frank Zang.
Normally, the Jazz staff would put matching t-shirts on every seat and the plaza would host a party. After a blowout win on Friday, celebrating fans would pour out of the arena into downtown Salt Lake City.
“It would be much, much busier than today, unfortunately,” said Shawn Stinson with Visit Salt Lake.
Hotel room occupancy is big indicator on how other hospitality businesses, such as restaurants and bars, are doing downtown.
Only 35 percent of the rooms are filled each night. Typically, that’s closer to 80 percent, according to Stinson.
“Our hoteliers are hurting, and… that translates to a huge loss of business for the other businesses in and around the downtown area,” said Stinson.
The Utah Office of Tourism expects a rebound to take a year before things are back to normal.
“I think that is the hardest part is the unknown future,” said Schofield.