Olympic Legacy Foundation announces multi-million projects
March 6, 2018
Colin Hilton, president of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation, went before the Summit County Council last week to ask the county's help in securing bond financing for three multi-million-dollar projects.
The Olympic Legacy Foundation requested the county serve as a conduit for a $19.5 million tax-free municipal bond to finance infrastructure projects in Summit and Salt Lake counties. The foundation is a nonprofit organization responsible for operating the Utah Olympic Park, Soldier Hollow and the Utah Olympic Oval.
Hilton said the main project that would be financed under the bond would be the construction of a four-story, 72-unit athlete and work force housing building. The $13.2 million project would serve local and visiting athletes, as well as portions of Utah Olympic Park's work force.
The employee housing would be constructed on land the foundation already owns within Utah Olympic Park. Construction is slated to begin in the spring and is expected to be complete in the summer of 2019.
Hilton has said the construction of athlete housing could help other services come online, including sports medicine and performance services.
The other two projects that would be funded through the bond are the construction of a zip tour line and an improvement project for the Kearns Athlete Training and Event Center in Salt Lake County. Both projects are already under construction.
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The Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation's request for the county to allow the foundation to access tax-exempt bonds comes less than a month after the state's exploratory committee announced that Salt Lake City and the Winter Olympic region should pursue a second Winter Olympic Games in 2030.
While the projects would support the foundation's mission to serve world-class athletes, they are also "very important to Utah's positioning efforts to bring back an Olympic and Paralympic Games to Utah," according to a county staff report. In addition to maintaining existing infrastructure, the capital improvement projects would also help the training sites transition into designated Official Olympic Training Centers.
As the Olympic Park, Olympic Oval and Soldier Hollow Nordic Center near their 20- to 25-year lifespans, the foundation is looking for ways to secure nearly $40 million to improve the structures over the next 10 years, a report states. The state is being asked to support the funding gap to improve the structures.
If Summit County agrees to act as a conduit, the county would have no legal liability to pay back the bonds even in the case of default, according to Dave Thomas, chief civil deputy attorney. The collateral for the bonds would be the land and the improvements built on it.
When the county acts as a conduit for private activity bonds, the county assumes no legal liability to repay the debt, Thomas said.
"There is no risk to the county or taxpayers in the event of default," he said. "There is also generally not a risk to our credit ratings. All the conduit financing does is allows the county to act as the institution to allow the Legacy Foundation to access tax-exempt bonds."
Summit and Salt Lake counties will be required to enter into an inter-local cooperative agreement to facilitate borrowing because not all of the facility projects are located in Summit County. The County Council is scheduled to consider the agreement on Wednesday. The item is listed as a discussion with the possibility of approval.