Warriors call Utah boring, but fans say it’s place to party
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Salt Lake City tourism officials playfully jabbed back at Golden State Warriors players who bemoaned the lack of nightlife in Utah, hoping to combat the predominantly Mormon state’s reputation as a boring place where it’s tough to get a drink.
The tourism agency in the state capital launched a new website and video Monday titled, “There’s nothing to do in Salt Lake” that features people enjoying drinks and food at popular breweries, bars, restaurants and sporting venues. The words “no fun” and “no drinking” sarcastically flash across images in the video.
Scott Beck, president of Visit Salt Lake, sent a letter to the Warriors to accompany the video, saying the city can’t wait to host the 2015 NBA champions as they face the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference semifinals this weekend.
“In case you do stumble across something to do while here in Salt Lake, all of our bartenders and servers are on notice to keep you up late!” Beck wrote.
The Jazz said Wednesday that they will sell navy blue T-shirts with ”#Nightlife” written over a basketball logo in the team’s colors.
The city’s campaign comes after some of the Warriors players talked about wishing they were playing the Clippers instead of the Jazz, mostly for the chance to have some time off in Los Angeles rather than Salt Lake City.
Andre Iguodala told ESPN that Utah can “lull you to sleep” and make you think, “Man, let’s just get out of here.’” Matt Barnes said declaratively: “There’s no nightlife in Utah.”
Nick Maneotis, a 31-year-old construction worker, shot back at Barnes while watching Game 1 Tuesday night at a Salt Lake City restaurant: “Matt Barnes should focus more on basketball than nightlife.”
Tourism officials are used to dealing with the perception that Utah is a dull, quiet state where the only thing to do is ski, hike or visit family-friendly entertainment options tailored for kids. The reputation is based largely on the influence of the Mormon church, which teaches its members to abstain from drinking alcohol.
Dennis Rodman complained about the nightlife during the 1998 NBA Finals when his Chicago Bulls played the Jazz. He hopped on a plane between games to gamble in Las Vegas.
“My life just goes to complete hell when I go to Utah,” Rodman said at the time. “That means I have to revert to going back to Las Vegas or going somewhere to get some excitement, to keep my mind rolling.”
Beck, the tourism chief, said it felt like deja vu reading the Warriors’ comments.
“It was like, ‘Oh no, not again’ and then, ’Wait a minute, this is an opportunity,” Beck said.
Beck’s team then created the website, produced the video and rolled out a social media plan.
“Everybody knows we have great red rock and everybody knows we have great snow, but they don’t know we have this incredible urban core,” Beck said.
Several residents in Salt Lake City — where the Jazz dominate the sports scene — scoffed at the California players’ comments.
“The Warriors were misinformed,” said Welby Evangelista, 46. “This is a town that has many things to offer ... if you are looking for a bar, there’s 30 bars around us. You just have to look.”
Crystal Daniels, 32, said she finds fun every night and lamented that outsiders believe you can’t drink in Utah.
“Salt Lake City in a nutshell: Everybody has this idea that it’s basically ruled by the church,” said Dustin Smith, 28. “It’s unfortunate that people perceive it that way. There’s a lot of great things going on. ... All you got to do is walk in and actually meet people.”
Beck said his office is discussing options with Jazz officials about possible events over the weekend to have more fun with the Warriors.
“We’re floating around some really good ideas,” Beck said.
Associated Press photographer Rick Bowmer contributed to this story.