The Ball Era: 1971-19962019-04-22T15:39:00-07:00

The Ball Era, 1971-1996

The Ball Era

When Fred S. Ball came to the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce as its new executive vice president on January 1, 1971, the 38-year-old transportation executive didn’t have time to dwell on his well-known predecessors. He had plenty of challenges right from the start, including meeting the first payroll.

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Behind the Wheel

Those red, white, and blue buses so popular today on Salt Lake City’s streets? For a while in the 1960s and 1970s, the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce ran them, and without the Chamber’s heavy involvement Salt Lake City might have closed its mass transit operations.

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Beautifying Downtown – or Else

In 1973 the Environmental Protection Agency dropped a bomb on Salt Lake City’s downtown–or so it seemed to the participants at the time. They included the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, which was deeply involved in the Main Street Beautification program that, in Fred Ball’s terms, “would forever change downtown Salt Lake City.”

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Bringing on the Jazz

It had been a bad year for the National Basketball League’s eighteenth franchise. The New Orleans Jazz could not play in their home arena, the Superdome, when conventions were in town. Attendance was dropping and the team wasn’t winning games.

The team became a logical target for relocation after the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce’s board of governors started looking to become a “major league sports city” during a board and staff retreat.

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Losing with Brigham and the State Fair

Sometimes, in all innocence, the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce stirred up a hornet’s nest and then scrambled into a hasty and strategic retreat. That happened twice in 1978, when it tried to move Brigham Young’s monument and, later, the Utah State Fair.

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The Chamber Finds a New Home

Over the years, the Salt Lake Chamber called a number of office buildings home, some of them elegant, others not so grand. Their new offices on Fourth South and State Street were decidedly in the elegant category when they moved in 1986, thanks to an innovative plan to furnish them.

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Something for Everyone

For some people, the best thing the Chamber does is work with the Legislature. For others, it’s working in the schools. Some want it to train future leaders and some want it to serve the needs of the leaders already in place. Many want to socialize and develop networks of contacts. Others want to be deeply involved in civic improvement programs and to be kept informed on critical issues. Most of them want the Chamber to be there when it’s time to recognize people for their great work.

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Flying High at the Airport

In 1968, the Salt Lake Municipal Airport was renamed the “Salt Lake City International Airport.” The new name was symbolic of its ever-expanding scope.

Just as the Chamber helped give birth to Salt Lake’s first cinder airfield, it continued to nurture its growth to maturity in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s.

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The Chamber Meets its Sister Cities

After assuming the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce’s top staff position, Fred Ball discovered some old files in Chamber storage about a sister city program. Started during the Gus Backman era, the links had grown inactive during the Max Rich years.

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A Palace of Dreams

When the Salt Palace opened in 1969 it was heralded as a great civic asset and ridded the downtown of urban blight. It had been a dream of the community as early as January, 1929 to build a civic auditorium. That year a drawing of a proposed facility was printed in the local press.

The long-envisioned proposal got new impetus in 1961 when the City Commission and the County Commission named a subcommittee of their respective planning commissions to determine the feasibility of a civic auditorium.

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The Party of the Century

They called it the Party of the Century, and it turned out to be just that. When the International Olympic Committee picked Salt Lake City to host the 2002 Winter Games the city erupted in joy. It was 1995 and the games were nearly seven years in the distance, but citizens wanted to party.

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