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News » Time to honor arena's founder

Time to honor arena's founder

Time to honor arena's founder What's wrong with this picture? There's a statue of John Stockton in front of EnergySolutions Arena. There's a statue of Karl Malone, too. They've both got adjacent streets named after them, as well.

But what about the other guy? The Jazz never would have won a game without him, and he never threw a pass, sank a basket or finished a fast break. Without him, the Jazz aren't even here. The arena isn't here. Stockton and Malone aren't here. They end up somewhere else, maybe on different teams. Without the other guy, there is no Hot Rod, no Jerry, no Boozer speculation at the water cooler, no Frank Layden, no Hornacek, no Andre, no NBA Finals, no NBA All-Star Game, no extensive west-side makeover and possibly no Gateway mall. And maybe no Winter Olympics. You know where I'm going with this, don't you. Why not a statue of Larry Horne Miller? Or name the arena after him. Or both. "His name should be on the arena," says Layden, the former Jazz president and coach. "Somewhere, it should say it ? on the floor or on the building." Miller's purchase of the Jazz and construction of the arena were a contribution to the state that went well beyond Basketball. It gave the team an identity and a forum. It gave the state a rallying point. "That (arena) was critical for the city," says Layden. "If we don't have that building, we don't get the Olympics. And if we don't have the Jazz , we don't get the Olympics." Miller's name on the arena ? it's a no-brainer. The Jazz's exhibition season is under way, and soon another regular season will begin. It will be the first time since 1984 that Miller isn't in the owner's seat for a season opener. This seems like the time to make the move. Maybe the Jazz are waiting for Miller to return, because it's difficult to believe he's really gone. It's been seven months since he succumbed to a variety of health problems and passed away. Miller's name already graces the lobby at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, the baseball/softball complex at BYU, Salt Lake Community College's south campus, about half the car dealerships on State Street and his racetrack in Tooele. Why not the arena, where he made his most visible and perhaps most widely beneficial contribution? They could call it the Larry H. Miller EnergySolutions Arena. Or just Miller Arena for short. OK, EnergySolutions isn't going to go for that after paying a bundle for naming rights. Maybe they'd agree to share the name. At least put his name somewhere prominently on the building as a memorial, then commission sculptor Brian Challis to make a third statue of Miller. Challis could sculpt Miller wearing his golf-shirt-sneakers-and-Dockers uniform, but what would he have the statue doing? Tearing up one of Malone's contracts and signing a new one? Handing a commemorative ball to Stockton for breaking another career record? Driving his Falcon convertible? Sitting in his courtside seat? Nobody has earned the privilege of having his name on the building more than Miller. You know the story by now. Miller bought half of the Jazz in 1985 simply to prevent them from leaving Salt Lake City. Fourteen months later, he bought the second half for the same reason. He always called the Jazz his gift to Utah, and it was an expensive one. He convinced bankers to lend him $8 million ? double his net worth ? to buy half of a franchise that had lost $17 million in its 11-year history. He went into debt another $14 million, or a total of $22 million, to buy the second half of the team. By the time he built the arena, he was nearly $100 million in debt. What no one realized was that he wasn't even much of a Basketball fan at the time. Some of the executives in Miller's own company opposed the purchase of the team ? it didn't make sense. Miller didn't really want to do it either ? he would have happily let someone else buy the team if it kept the Jazz here ? but no one else would do it. The Jazz are Miller's gift. Now someone needs to put his name on it. Doug Robinson's column runs on Tuesdays. Please send e-mail to

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 7, 2009


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