Summit County contemplates role in future bid for Winter Olympics
As Utah strides toward seeking a bid for the Winter Olympic Games in 2030, Summit County leaders are beginning to explore what kind of role the county would play if the Games were to be hosted again in the region.
The state’s exploratory committee announced on Wednesday that Salt Lake City and the Winter Olympic region should pursue a second Games. The 2002 Olympic Games were held at Olympic venues in the area. An estimated 2,345 athletes competed and 1,200 officials came from 80 nations participated.
A representative from the County Council or county staff was noticeably absent from the exploratory committee, with Park City Mayor Andy Beerman the only elected official from Park City or Summit County participating.
County Manager Tom Fisher said the county was still included in some of the discussions as the members of the committees examined the region’s current infrastructure and venues. He admitted, though, the county would need to play a more significant role in the upcoming months and years to prepare for a Games.
“There is so much to think about in regards to Salt Lake City hosting the Games,” he said. “We are now starting to meet with our partners in the municipalities to explore what we need to have lined up for Summit County to get ready for a Games.
“I think the community and the county government is excited about it,” he added. “We see the possibility and need to be ready to step up to that challenge.”
When the Games were hosted in the region in 2002, more figures from Park City than Summit County were involved. But, Fisher said the county has experienced significant changes since that time.
“Kimball Junction, as it is now, did not exist in 2002,” he said. “There was no commercial property, Park City Tech Center or transit center, and we had just rebuilt the interchange to handle the Olympic traffic.”
The impacts of a Games in the unincorporated areas of the county near the Utah Olympic Park and Canyons Village at Park City Mountain Resort would require critical discussions in the interim, Fisher said.
“That has to happen at a higher level, and we are going to have to put some brain power around that,” he said.
One of the major points of discussion will likely surround the impact a Games would have on traffic in the area and the transportation component that would be necessary to handle it. Fisher said a housing component would also be a part of those conversations, as well as security, crowds and event management.
“In starting to think about that large event in 2030, we have to think about what we have to do to prepare,” he said. “We have to not only talk to the state, but the federal government and the United States Olympic Committee to understand what we have to put together as far as a community. That probably means some resources going towards the Games either with people or money.”
The county would likely be eligible for help with the finances and staffing required to host another Games in the region. Fisher emphasized the financial responsibility and other necessities, such as security, would not fall solely on the shoulders of the county.
“That’s not looked at as a local responsibility,” he said. “There would be some leveraging of resources to advance the goals of the community. What does it take with transportation and security, those are rarely local responsibilities. We will share the burden with the state and whoever is putting on the event over this period of time if we win that bid for 2030, and we will be working with these groups to figure out whose responsibility is what.”
Fisher said a bid for the Games could provide the county with an opportunity to advance some of its transportation goals at a more accelerated rate compared to if only the county was paying for them.
“Having an Olympics brings in outside resources to bear that might be able to advance some of those things sooner,” he said.
Representatives of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation are scheduled to meet with the County Council on Feb. 21 to ask the county to act as a conduit for financing certain projects related to the foundation’s venues. Fisher said it would be about $17 million worth of bonds, with most of those at the Utah Olympic Park and at least one project at the Park City Ice Arena.
“That’s somewhat related to a future Games, but more related to the Olympic Legacy Foundation and the venue that they take care of as part of that overall Olympic legacy,” he said.
When the state made its first bid to host a Games, the Salt Lake Organizing Committee began preparing for the event in the late 1980s. While Utah lost the bid for the 1998 Olympics to Japan, the state was later awarded the opportunity to host the 2002 Games.
“It sounds like 12 years away is plenty of time to do something like that, but they spent about 15 years figuring out bidding and doing all that stuff,” Fisher said. “We are kind of in that same timeline. It will be different than it was before because we are a lot more sophisticated as far as future desire, needs and vision on how we would want to operate. We need to come together very quickly to project that vision.”
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