Veterans propose submarine monument at Library Square
Military • Proposal to bring USS Salt Lake City's deck to Library Square pits groups.
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Periscope up. Salt Lake City's namesake nuclear submarine may be coming home for the first time and docking permanently at a park near you.

More accurately, a veterans group wants the 180-foot-long deck and 27-foot-tall conning tower of the decommissioned USS Salt Lake City to be implanted downtown at Library Square.

The Utah Chapter of World War II and Retired Nuclear Submariners rolled out the proposal recently to the Salt Lake City Library Board of Directors. The board has an advisory role — but will not make the final decision — and took the matter under advisement.

The 362-foot Los Angeles-class nuclear submarine was launched in August 1980 at Newport News, Va. The fast attack sub was retired in January 2006 and is in dry-dock at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash.

"It's not often an organization comes forward with a ship that is named Salt Lake City," City Councilman Charlie Luke said Thursday of the proposal. "Should this be in the city? Absolutely."

But Library Square might be a tough sell for the monument, if recent events are any barometer.

Three years ago, Mayor Ralph Becker proposed that the new Public Safety Building be located on the library block. A citizens group, Friends of Salt Lake City Library Green Space, mobilized to protest. They succeeded — the Public Safety Building is under construction on the block east of Library Square.

Friends of Library Green Space is now mobilizing against the submarine, said Deeda Seed, a former Salt Lake City councilwoman who also served as chief of staff to former Mayor Rocky Anderson.

"Library Square is not the place for a nuclear submarine monument," she said. "One hundred eighty feet is one-third of a block. It won't fit."

Beyond that, Seed said the downtown library and the open space around it were carefully planned.

"We are very pleased with the result," she said. "Maybe there is a place somewhere for the USS Salt Lake City. But it is definitely not at Library Square."

Councilwoman Jill Remington Love also is not convinced Library Square is the appropriate place for a large monument.

"We have learned that Library Square is a place that people want to keep as open space," she said. "But I still think it would be nice to have a monument to those who have served our country. I think, as a city, we could find an appropriate spot for it."

The process to determine where such a monument should be placed, if the city accepts it at all, remains unclear, said Rick Graham, director of public services.

The city does have a donation ordinance that outlines how and what types of contributions can be made, he said. But the proposed deck and conning tower of the USS Salt Lake City will require revamping the process.

"We've never seen a submarine deck. It's very large," Graham said. "We're exploring some new territory with this."

It will take several months to put together a "rigorous" process by which the submarine proposal can be evaluated, Graham said. In the end, the mayor will make the decision, unless taxpayer dollars are required. In that event, Becker would have to make a funding request to the City Council.

csmart@sltrib.com