Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation warns of financial woes: ‘We’re struggling’

President and CEO says venues need more money, another Games

Utah Olympic Park in November 2022. The Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation warned Summit County officials it may experience financial woes without new revenue or another Games.
Park Record file photo by David Jackson

Most Utahns agree they want to see the Winter Olympics return. But for the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation, another Games is a critical component to endowing the nonprofit. 

“Financially, we’re struggling,” Colin Hilton, the president and CEO of the foundation, told the County Courthouse last week.

Hilton met with the Summit County Council on Aug. 30 to extend the development agreement between the Utah Olympic Park and the county for another 10 years. The benefits of the foundation were clear to officials, who unanimously supported the renewal. 

Yet Hilton raised concerns about the longevity of the foundation if it isn’t able to obtain new revenue or host a second Winter Olympics. 

Utah Olympic Park and other Games venues, such as Soldier Hollow Nordic Center near Midway and Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, operate on a subsidized basis by using investment earnings from the Legacy Fund to cover the losses at each of its sites. Utah is one of two places that still use 100% of its Olympic venues. The other is Vancouver, Canada.

The Legacy Fund is valued at $46 million. However, it’s now being drawn at a much faster rate — to the tune of around $4 million a year. 

Economic factors such as “inflationary pressures of rising payroll costs, skyrocketing insurance premiums and double-digit increases in energy costs” all play a role, according to Hilton.

There have also been seasonal reductions in summer staffing to help the Utah Olympic Park transition into its fall operations. The lift operations department saw 10 employees laid off, which is less than 5% of the 300 staff employed during the summer, according to General Manager Jamie Kimball. No other departments were impacted by the employee cuts.

“Our winter operations see just over 100 staff members,” Kimball said. “As the summer season nears its end, additional seasonal reductions will naturally occur as people go back to school and our operations follow the traditional shift into the shoulder season with reduced activities.”

The nonprofit is focused on a three-pronged strategy to promote fundraising, public activity and additional building projects at Utah Olympic Park to “drive added land lease revenues per our current development agreement with Summit County,” according to Hilton.

In an email to The Park Record, he said the foundation is exploring possible projects in five areas. These are additional training and competition facilities, lodging and support facilities, sports medicine and sports performance facilities, office, education and meeting facilities as well as public recreational uses.  

“The extension approved [on Wednesday] was the first of two possible extensions in an overall 30-year master plan we outlined and were approved for back in 2013,” Hilton said.

Projects over the past 10 years include remodeling the Eccles Olympic Freestyle Pool, completing Phase 1 of the intermediate ski run expansion, and renovating the sliding track refrigerator system. The Utah Olympic Park also created 72 units of affordable housing, something Hilton said they could build more of with additional funding.

Phase 2 of the freestyle and alpine training and competition facility at the Eccles Olympic Mountain Center was also finished. The $20 million West Peak expansion was part of an ongoing mission to invest in skiing and snowboarding and an effort to create a “home base” for training along the Wasatch Back. 

The idea started over two decades ago, before the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games, when the park was originally designed. It opened the 25 acres in March after the historic winter pushed back the opening. 

The Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation opened its new high-speed quad lift on West Peak in March. The multimillion-dollar expansion project will provide a “home base” for training along the Wasatch Back.
Park Record file photo by David Jackson

The terrain may also be used during a future Winter Olympics. The Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games is bidding for the 2030 or 2034 event. However, officials have indicated they would prefer to host in 11 years. A decision may come in 2024.

Hilton added the community can help by participating in programs and activities as well as supporting fundraising efforts.

“Now more than ever, we are hopeful to add new elements that are complementary to our existing Olympic Training Center and help us generate new revenues,” he said. “Both the added development projects and the prospects of a second Olympic & Paralympic Games returning to Utah will be critical (to) Foundation and Legacy venues being self-sustaining.”


See more

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Park City and Summit County make the Park Record's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.