Utah Olympic Park goes for gold
March 20, 2012
Summit County Council members called the Utah Olympic Park rezone an enormous asset to the community prior to approving the expansion of the park to include 67,000 square feet of athlete/workforce housing, about 112 units, a 40,000-square-foot sports medicine and training facility, expansion of the existing Day Lodge, and adding additional office space.
The park was built prior to the 2002 Winter Olympics and has been operating as a venue for international and local athletes to train ever since as well as hosting World Cup events for skeleton, bobsled and ski jumping.
Located west of State Road 224 in the Snyderville Basin, developers said the expansion was necessary to ensure the financial viability and success of the park for years to come.
Colin Hilton, head of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation, said the additional buildings will show Utah’s commitment to the legacy of the Olympics, increase the possibility that Utah will host the Olympics again, and keep the venue financially viable without relying on the Olympic endowment fund.
"Right now, we are losing about $2.5 million a year by operating the park. Our losses are coming out of the Olympic Endowment Fund which will be gone by 2030 at this rate," Hilton said. "This is how we can keep it going: continue having an emphasis on youth sports and help athletes and the community."
Hilton added that land development is only one phase of the foundation’s efforts to become financially stable; they will also focus on fundraising and grants.
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Council members were enthusiastic about the project and supported Hilton’s measures to decrease reliance on the endowment. Councilor Dave Ure said it was a great idea and that in the future, the expansion of the park will benefit everyone.
"One day, when the Games come back, we want to show everyone that we took care of the venues and continued to use them and make the community proud of them," Ure said. "It is one of the fabrics of our community."
Developers plan on clustering the buildings to give the development a "campus" feel and said the addition of workforce housing will reduce traffic on Olympic Parkway, the only road leading to the park.
"People who work at the park could live there and it gives us a place where athletes from out of town could stay while they are here training," Hilton said, adding that not having housing available for visiting athletes and competitors is a big reason more international events aren’t held at the park.
Hilton said the buildings will be built one at a time based on available funds and they expect to have the project completed in 30 years. The athlete housing is proposed to be built on the slope facing S.R. 224. Hilton said landscaping and the architecture should minimize the visual impact of the project. The Winter Sports School is expected to stay in its current location and possibly move into one of the proposed office buildings once they are completed.
The only issue the Council raised regarding the project was the impact it would have on traffic on S.R. 224. Hilton said Summit County’s Traffic Engineer Kent Wilkerson unfairly labeled the project "a tipping point" for an increase in traffic in the area, which would cause developers to pay additional impact fees.
Council members voted 5-0 to approve the project and will decide on impact fees and necessary traffic studies at a later date.