Park City businesses excited at the prospect of the Olympics returning
When the Olympic torch was passed to Salt Lake City in 2002, effects of the event rippled throughout the state. Park City, where many of the sporting events took place, suddenly gained international recognition and the economy expanded.
Now, as the state prepares to bid for a future Olympic Games in 2030, businesses’ ears have perked up to learn more about what it could mean for them.
Bill Malone, president and CEO of the Park City Chamber/Bureau, said that another Olympics could boost the reputation of Park City and increase its appeal to visitors. He was working at the Chamber/Bureau during the first Olympic Games and saw visitation increase from international tourists in the years following the global event.
“It was the Games that put us on the platform that we were relative on a global scale in terms of a ski destination,” he said. “Everybody has run with that since, but I think that was the starting point.”
Rick Anderson, former owner of The Eating Establishment on Main Street and current owner of Mojo’s at the base of Park City Mountain Resort, said that he also saw that increase of international tourists, and he does not doubt that a second Olympics would have a similar effect.
The 17-day festivities in 2002 were one of the two most successful stretches the Eating Establishment had. But, business at Mojo’s was not as strong, Anderson said.
“We had normal business at the ski resort for that period of time,” he said. “Traffic was diverted because of snowboarding events there, and I think that had a negative impact on business.”
Malone said that seeing fewer skiers on the slopes during the Games is common, and the Chamber/Bureau was anticipating up to a 25 percent decrease in skier days based off research on prior Winter Olympic sites.
“We were actually pretty proud of the fact that we were able to hold it that year at an 11 percent decline from the previous year,” he said.
He said that many regular customers of the resorts tend to stay away because they fear that there will be more crowds and traffic. While that might be true in town, Malone said it is just the opposite on the slopes.
Businesses, depending on their location and products, can either flourish during the Olympics or scrape by. Some businesses in 2002 chose to sublet their spaces to larger companies as they do during the Sundance Film Festival. Some employees volunteered during the Games because working was not very profitable.
Malone said that major events like the Olympics often do not create a level playing field for businesses.
“There are people who think they are going to get rich out of the Games, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth,” he said. “The real benefit is in the years coming after the Games and really elevating your brand.”
Casey Crawford, owner of Prospect and Park City Mercantile on Main Street, was working at another store on Main Street during the Olympics. In the years following, she said that she would often hear people saying that they came to Park City specifically because it hosted the Olympics. She agreed that another Games would be lucrative.
Plus, she and Anderson said that there were improvements and additions to the recreational infrastructure, such as the Utah Olympic Park and Soldier Hollow Nordic Center, which ultimately benefited the city. Anderson said that the Games branded Park City Mountain Resort as the snowboard capitol and Deer Valley Resort as the freestyle center of the country.
“Those two things were very positive,” he said.
Malone said that hosting another Olympic Games would help keep Park City current within the ski industry.
But Crawford also knows that the boom from the Olympics had to be supplemented with other offerings in the city in order to sustain the success, and that would be true of hosting a future Games as well. The Olympics cannot and should not be Park City’s only claim to fame, she said.
“There is so much more value and history in Park City than the 2002 Olympics or the potential 2030 Olympics,” she said.
A study pegged the number of Sundance Film Festival attendees at 122,313, with the event generating an economic impact of $182.5 million. Both numbers represent a slight decrease from the 2018 festival.