UPDATED: Committee says Utah should pursue a second Olympic Games
Salt Lake City and the wider Winter Olympic region should pursue a second Games, the Utah Exploratory Committee said on Wednesday morning, a position that means Park City and other communities involved in the discussions will likely continue to prepare for a bidding process that could start in earnest shortly.
The recommendation is similar to public statements recently by figures involved in the efforts. They have consistently said the Olympic region could mount a bid for the Games in 2026, but there was a better likelihood the 2030 event would be sought. Media reports from the Winter Olympics in South Korea indicate the United States Olympic Committee has opted not to seek the event in 2026. That decision means the local efforts will be in anticipation of the Games in 2030.
The exploratory committee met at the Capitol and the board cast a unanimous vote. Figures from Park City were present, including Mayor Andy Beerman. He is a member of the exploratory committee’s working group, a post that has made him City Hall’s lead figure in the Olympic discussions.
The International Olympic Committee has required each country interested in a bid for the Games in 2026 to submit a city name by March 31.
In an interview afterward, Beerman said a community debate is needed in Park City about an Olympic bid. He said options include a forum, posing the question on City Hall’s online engagement tool, holding Coffee with Council gatherings or a Park City Council meeting. The talks could occur within 60 days, he said.
“Ideally, we’d start the community conversation soon,” he said.
Beerman said he has heard support in Park City for an Olympic bid, but others have expressed concern. He said there is worry by some that a second Olympics could “fuel additional growth.”
He argued, though, Park City was poised for growth as the Winter Olympics in 2002 approached and the Games acted as an “accelerant” for growth. In a post-Olympic era after a future Games, though, Beerman said City Hall could advance its priorities of transportation, housing and energy. By 2030, he said, most of the anticipated development in Park City could already be completed.
“I think we’ve been through the growth phase,” he said.
Park City would be a crucial component to a Salt Lake City bid, as it was during the era prior to the Games in 2002. Three major Olympic venues were in the Park City area – Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley Resort and the Utah Olympic Park. Main Street, meanwhile, was one of the Olympic region’s primary celebration zones as City Hall turned the street into a pedestrian-only corridor with concerts, pin trading and other festivities.
The exploratory committee meeting on Wednesday was an upbeat gathering of political and business leaders who would be expected to be heavily involved in the early efforts.
“There’s no better place in the world,” Gov. Gary Herbert said as he described the Olympic region’s readiness to host a second Games.
Fraser Bullock, one of the exploratory committee’s co-chairs and a former high-ranking figure in the organizing committee that put on the Games in 2002, said a future Olympics in Utah could break even financially or produce a surplus. He said costs could be reduced from the earlier Games since infrastructure is already in place. An exploratory committee report identifies a balanced projected budget of a little less than $1.4 billion in today’s dollars. The top revenue streams are forecast to be from the sales of broadcasting rights and from ticket sales. The Olympic operations and labor costs are seen as the largest expenses.
The exploratory committee report notes that Salt Lake City is positioned well for another Games partially based on the earlier Olympics.
“Utah has a distinct advantage in hosting again due to its full set of existing venues operating at world-class levels, an experienced team, a unique, compact geography, and a history of hosting hundreds of sports events, including world cups and world championships,” the report says. It also points to the state’s transportation infrastructure and accommodations, which the exploratory committee says exceed “Games hosting requirements, assuring smooth Games operations and an extraordinary experience for all stakeholders.”
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The Park City lodging industry in recent weeks experienced an uptick in projected occupancy numbers during the dates of the Sundance Film Festival, but the figures remain depressed from a typical year during the largest special event on the city’s calendar.