Utah Olympic Park starts construction on athlete housing
The Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation recently started construction on an athlete and workforce housing project at the Utah Olympic Park, bringing to fruition a goal more than 20 years in the making to provide additional athlete services.
Officials say the project’s purpose is twofold: It provides short-and long-term housing options for athletes, as well as employees, and it further highlights Utah’s commitment to creating sustainable Olympic venues as the state strides toward making a bid for another Winter Olympic Games.
An official groundbreaking ceremony was held on Thursday at the site, with representatives of the Legacy Foundation and the state’s Olympic exploratory committee joining Summit County Councilor Chris Robinson, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser. Luke Bodensteiner, chief of sport for U.S. Ski and Snowboard, as well as Olympic athletes Jake Vedder and Valerie Fleming were also at the ceremony.
Officials during the ceremony touted the project’s ability to better position the state to make a bid for another games, while continuing to attract athletes from across the country and world. The state’s exploratory committee announced in February that Salt Lake City and the broader Winter Olympic region should pursue a second games. The 2002 Olympic Games were held at Olympic venues in the area.
“We are coming up with venues that not only train athletes for the future and continue the legacy, but allow the opportunity for a future bid,” Robinson said. “What you see around the world is a lot of money spent and it’s one-time money, not hard assets. I think this shows the commitment of Summit County, the Legacy Foundation, Salt Lake City and Park City to be ready and willing to host another games.”
Colin Hilton, president of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation, also attended the groundbreaking and said it has become increasingly difficult to attract athletes to come to Utah to train when there aren’t many affordable housing options, citing the rising rental rates. The Foundation is a nonprofit organization responsible for operating the Utah Olympic Park, Soldier Hollow and the Utah Olympic Oval.
Hilton said athletes are currently on their own to find housing, adding that many participate in homestays or cram into small apartments to split living costs.
“This would be the first project of its kind to meet those needs,” he said. “This has been a vision that goes all the way back to the early days of thinking about creating a legacy venue option. It is one of the envisioned elements that has never been built.”
The project will include a $13.6 million, four-story facility with 72 units, or 146 beds. The combination apartment building will be comprised of affordable nightly and monthly rentals, with the long-term units costing $600-$700 a month. Nightly rentals will be available for roughly $35-$40 a night per athlete. Approximately 35 to 40 of the beds will be earmarked for Utah Olympic Park employees. The project is slated to open in July of 2019.
One of the reasons the housing plan has taken so long to come to fruition is because the Legacy Foundation had to get creative in securing the financing, Hilton said.
Summit County is acting as a conduit for the Legacy Foundation for a $19.5 million tax-free municipal bond to finance the housing units and other infrastructure projects in Summit and Salt Lake counties.
The state also contributed more than $1 million to the project. The remaining project total — roughly $12.6 million — will be financed by the Legacy Foundation.
“We are adding a $12-to-13 million addition to the infrastructure that allows us to more actively use these venues,” Hilton said. “That is in stark contrast to stories out of Sochi (Russia) and Rio (Brazil) where you see crumbling concrete and structures that have been neglected. The Olympic movement is looking for stories of sustainable venues and vibrant activity.”
Hilton said he has been committed to showcasing the Legacy’s Foundation to provide a slew of support services for athletes.
“Are we going out on a limb doing this? Yes,” he said. “But, my gut knows this is the right thing to do.”
Fraser Bullock, co-chairman of the exploratory committee, said Utah has best Olympic venues in the world. He added, “They are being utilized to the full extent and they are constantly being renewed and refreshed.”
“We are the most prepared city in the world, by far, to host another Olympic Games,” he said.
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