Summit County doesn’t want to ‘fall behind’ on Olympics talks, manager says
Ever since Utah’s exploratory committee announced that Salt Lake City and the Winter Olympic region should pursue a bid for the Games in 2030, Summit County officials have asserted a strong desire to lead a more active role in the discussions about becoming a host community.
While local and state governments are mobilizing the effort to pursue a second games, county officials are seemingly hanging back “because we don’t know what we are dealing with,” according to Summit County Manager Tom Fisher.
“Given that we are 12 years away from 2030, the expected year, we don’t want to overly project enthusiasm or project a lack of enthusiasm,” he said. “We are playing that dance of: How much to project forward until you really know what you are dealing with?”
Last week, Park City’s elected officials held their first formal discussion to begin exploring the prospects of participating in a bid for the 2030 Olympics. No decisions were made at the meeting, the first of what will likely be a wide-ranging community conversation in coming months.
While the county has not scheduled any formal talks before the public, Fisher said, the Council and staff have discussed long-term visions for what the community could look like, in terms of infrastructure, venues and transportation plans, as the region contemplates an Olympic bid.
“The Legislature has dedicated resources toward a Salt Lake bid committee, and I think along with that process, we will be very involved with what we are seeing as a local government committee that will act as an advisory role to the main bid committee,” he said. “We will have both staff and a Council member involved with that local committee.”
Fisher also highlighted the County Council’s decision to grant the Olympic Legacy Foundation’s request for the county to 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.
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 other two projects that would be funded through the bond are the construction of a zip line tour and an improvement project for the Kearns Athlete Training and Event Center in Salt Lake County. Both projects are already under construction.
“That is a practical place where the Council has already taken some action in support of a future Olympic bid. As well, we are in constant contact with the Utah Olympic Park as far as their construction and development plans,” Fisher said.
Once the county begins its budget talks for fiscal year 2019 in the fall, Fisher said he anticipates some questions about what kinds of resources the county can dedicate toward the effort to secure a future games.
“When we start to see the government committees start to work, we will have a clearer picture of how that conversation regarding resources and with the community can be had,” he said. “I think we need to make sure we stay on top of this and that we don’t miss opportunities to be involved. Sometimes it’s easy to get left out if you don’t have your foot in the door. I’m making sure we are in contact with the right people and with the bid committee to make sure we don’t miss opportunities, while at the same time lining up things within our government. We don’t want to fall behind.”
County Council member Chris Robinson said the county has “lots of time” to engage in the conversation. He added, “It’s not like we need to make it our top priority today.”
“I’m not concerned that we are going to fall behind at this point in the game,” he said. “We’ve been so busy on other things that we really haven’t engaged that much. I know that the city has taken a more active role and they had their information session last week, but we are not that far up to speed.”
Robinson made assurances that the county will be more heavily involved than it is now. He said he respects the parties that are more actively engaged in the discussions, but added, “Things are quite speculative at this point.”
“We are grateful Park City is fully involved and we will be too, in due course,” he said. “They’re doing the initial lifting. It’s not too late because there is much to be done, but we are not centric to it. We’ll have some great opportunities to be engaged. It just doesn’t make sense to make this our top priority right now when we have other things that are of immediate concern and interest.”
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The Coalville native doesn’t see any major roadblocks for this year’s fair, though presenting in front of the County Council is a little nerve wracking.