Olympics 2030: Park City team has few 2002 veterans
February 26, 2018
Park City's chief 2002 Winter Olympic planner, Frank Bell, left City Hall shortly after the Games that year.
The Park City manager at the time of the Olympics, Toby Ross, departed by the end of 2002. And Myles Rademan, the municipal government's public affairs director and a crucial figure in City Hall's Games efforts, moved out of a full-time position nearly a decade ago.
Sixteen years after upward of half of the events of the Winter Olympics were staged in and around Park City, there remains little institutional knowledge of the Games within the ranks of City Hall. There has been turnover across departments in the intervening years, leaving few management-level figures on staff as Salt Lake City, Park City and the wider Games region appear poised to mount a bid for a second Winter Olympics, as early as the event in 2030.
City Attorney Mark Harrington remains in the same position he held in the Olympic era, a role that had wide-ranging responsibilities as officials negotiated highly important agreements with Games organizers and sponsors. Jonathan Weidenhamer, who is the economic development manager at City Hall, was a municipal planner at the time of the Games. He was assigned to oversee the Main Street celebration during the Olympics, setting a budget, crafting an operations blueprint and working with Games organizers to design the programs for the street.
“We didn’t have much experience the first time through. ... We spent a lot of time learning,” Frank Bell, Park City 2002 Winter Olympics planner
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But City Manager Diane Foster at the time of the Games was on the staff of American Skiing Company, then the owner of Canyons Resort. She assisted as The Today Show broadcast from the resort during the Games and other Olympic-related events unfolded there. The police chief, Wade Carpenter, was in law enforcement in Southern Utah at the time. Other high-level staffers who would be expected to hold key roles in any future Olympic efforts in 2002 were years away from joining City Hall.
"We didn't have much experience the first time through," Bell said in an interview as the Olympics in South Korea continued, explaining that he is unsure what sort of impact the sparse institutional knowledge would have on the planning for a second Olympics. "We spent a lot of time learning."
Bell was the chief of police of Park City when the Olympics were awarded to Salt Lake City in 1995. He became the director of the Games planning at City Hall two years later and left the municipal government in mid-2002, shortly after the Olympics closed and his position was cut from the budget. He went on to become the town manager in Colorado mountain resorts of Crested Butte and Telluride before becoming the general manager of a The Sea Ranch, a private community north of the Bay Area, where he remains.
Bell said City Hall retains lots of information about the municipal role during the Olympics even if there are few staffers remaining. He noted the contracts negotiated between City Hall and the Salt Lake Organizing Committee that outlined the roles and responsibilities of each side provide a detailed accounting of what is a critical aspect of Games planning. The municipal contracts with Olympic sponsors are available to officials as a guide, he said. A post-Olympic report primarily drafted by Bell is also available. The report provides a detailed rundown of City Hall's planning and operations.
"I think there is a foundation to do it again," Bell said.
He also noted figures who had a pivotal role with the organizing committee remain involved. Bell pointed to Fraser Bullock, who was the No. 2 staffer at the Salt Lake Organizing Committee behind Games chief Mitt Romney, and Colin Hilton, a high-ranking staffer at the organizing committee who went on to work at the Marsac Building. Bullock and Hilton are working with the committee considering a bid for the Games in 2030.
"I'm not sure it's a bad thing to build on the success," Bell said, adding that a future Olympics would also be done differently regardless of the number of people from the 2002 era remaining on the municipal staff.
The Marsac Building planning for 2002 focused on core topics like security and transportation, but the efforts eventually encompassed an extraordinary range of issues that required work by a diverse collection of staffers. The Olympic organizing committee assisted, and Bell said the International Olympic Committee and figures involved in the Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 helped City Hall as well. Officials had a role in crafting the plans for the competition venues at Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort. They also jointly planned a pedestrian-only celebration zone on Main Street with the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.
"In every way, we are more sophisticated," Weidehnhamer said.
He said City Hall nowadays has positions that did not exist in the Olympic era, describing the staff-level expertise in event planning and transportation systems.
Weidenhamer arrived at the Marsac Building in 1999 as a planner and was eventually shifted to Olympic duties working directly for Bell. He moved through the ranks afterward to become the economic development manager. Weidenhamer said the staffers of the Olympic era proved Park City is able to prepare a successful Games.
"There's not going to be shock and awe," he said, explaining that City Hall and the wider community has confidence stemming from 2002.
Planning for another Olympics, though, would be influenced by the community priorities of today, he said, something that does not necessarily rely on institutional knowledge. Weidenhamer said officials planning another Olympics would likely consider issues such as City Hall's environmental and housing goals. The Games could be a "galvanizing opportunity," he said.
Foster, the city manager, said institutional knowledge is important to an Olympic effort, but she also said there have been widespread changes in the community since the era of the Games in 2002. The transit system is greatly expanded and City Hall is better positioned to reduce the community impacts of a major event like an Olympics, she said.
"I don't think it's everything," Foster said about the lack of Olympic veterans on staff at City Hall. "I think it's part of the puzzle."