Park City: the Alpine Heart of the 2026 Winter Olympics? |

Park City: the Alpine Heart of the 2026 Winter Olympics?

by Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

Hidenari Kanayama of Japan circles turn six during the Men's Luge competition during day 2 of the Viessmann Luge World Cup event at Utah Olympic Park December 14, 2013 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

Park City 12 years ago shined in its role as what was dubbed the Alpine Heart of the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Twelve years from now, the city might again enjoy that position as the Winter Olympics in 2026 unfold.

There have been discussions, starting in earnest on the tenth anniversary of the 2002 Winter Olympics, about Salt Lake City mounting a bid for the Games in 2026. It is not yet decided whether the United States Olympic Committee will enter an American city in the contest to host the Winter Olympic in 2026. If it does, Salt Lake City has indicated it would vie to become the domestic bid city.

Should that happen, Park City would be expected to play at least the same role it did in 2002 and, possibly, even a greater one. It is almost certain that any bid for an Olympics by Salt Lake City would involve Park City as the crucial partner.

The Park City area — stretching from the Utah Olympic Park to Soldier Hollow — hosted upward of half of the athletic events in 2002. The Utah Olympic Park was especially busy with ski jumping, bobsled, luge and skeleton contests. Skiing and snowboarding events were staged at Park City Mountain Resort while Deer Valley Resort hosted skiing and freestyle competitions. Main Street, meanwhile, was one of the Olympic region’s most hopping celebration zones.

The International Olympic Committee will award the 2026 Winter Olympics in 2019, giving the region five years to finalize a bid package if Salt Lake City seeks those Games. A survey in January, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates and the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah, found that 82 percent of the people who responded either strongly support or support a bid for another Winter Olympics, perhaps the Games in 2026. The survey also found that 92 percent of those polled said Utah has either strongly benefited or benefited from the 2002 Winter Olympics.

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"I firmly believe we’ll have Games back here in my lifetime," Park City Councilman Andy Beerman said.

Beerman, a first-term City Councilor, is one of Park City’s representatives to an exploratory committee that is considering the prospects of a future bid for the Olympics, possibly for the Games in 2026. Beerman said the region would offer a formidable bid, saying the Olympic theater would be compact, the necessary transportation infrastructure is in place or being planned and the facilities needed for an Olympics already exist. He said another Olympics could be held "at a fraction of the price" of somewhere else.

He noted that the venues that hosted Olympic events in 2002 continue to be used for top-tier competitions like World Cups.

"That’s not the norm for venues . . . We’ve sort of kept the Olympic spirit alive and going" and thriving, Beerman said.

There would likely be a wide-ranging community discussion about a bid involving City Hall, the County Courthouse, the resort industry, the wider business community and rank-and-file Parkites. Leaders would seek to learn what sort of support there would be for another bid and what role Parkites would like Park City to play.

Beerman recalled mixed opinions about the Winter Olympics in 2002. There was concern, he said, but also lots of enthusiasm about the Olympics and winter sports. He said he anticipates there would be support for another bid. City Hall would hold public forums prior to the municipal government committing itself to a bid, Beerman said. If one is mounted, the Park City area should have the same role it did in 2002 or a greater one, he said.

In any bid for a future Games, the Utah Olympic Park would again be seen as one of the busiest venues. The bobsled, luge, skeleton and ski jumping competitions would be held there again. PCMR and Deer Valley would probably be tapped as competition venues for a second time. Canyons Resort, a broadcast site but not a competition venue in 2002, could be included in the athletic program in another Olympics.

It is difficult to project which competitions would be put at each of the resorts, though. Deer Valley’s freestyle venue — mogul skiing and aerials — is consistently lauded as one of the best on the World Cup circuit while PCMR has won praise for its snowboarding facilities. Canyons Resort, even without a history of World Cup-level events, has proven capable of hosting competitions.

Another member of the exploratory committee with local ties is Colin Hilton, the president and CEO of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation. The organization is a not-for-profit that operates the Utah Olympic Park and the Utah Olympic Oval speedskating facility in Kearns. Hilton directed the Park City and Summit County operations for the committee that organized the Olympics in 2002.

Hilton said the state’s Olympic facilities have remained busy in the 12 years since the Games. The Utah Olympic Park and the Utah Olympic Oval have seen their use quadruple since the Games, he said, describing "lots of activity and life" in the facilities, including their role as training centers for winter sports athletes. He said Utah has the infrastructure needed for an Olympics and communities that are interested in a second Games.

"We have essentially served as a great example of an Olympic city that got it right," Hilton said.