Prepare for a big splash at the Utah Olympic Park
June 23, 2015
The Utah Olympic Park at Kimball Junction is one of a handful of facilities of its kind in the world. Its bobsled track and Nordic ski jumps draw world-class athletes from around the world and provide a unique year-round tourist attraction. But for local residents it is their neighborhood playground.
From its inception in 1989, Olympic organizers promised to build a legacy facility, one that would remain vibrant and accessible long after the Olympic Games were over.
They have kept that promise.
The park was proposed in 1989 as Utah entered into the running to host the 1998 Winter Olympics and was funded in part by public money. The bid ultimately went to Nagano, Japan, but by then the jumps and bobsled track had become a fixture on the Summit County skyline.
And by the time Salt Lake City won the bid to host the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, Parkites had become bobsled, luge and ski jumping aficionados.
In the run up to the 2002 Olympics, local residents embraced the park, attending Olympic test events and learning all about those daredevil ice athletes and lighter -than-air ski jumpers. It became a favorite place to take out-of-town visitors and, importantly, served as a launching pad for a whole new generation of local winter sports athletes.
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This Saturday the Park is inviting residents and visitors to rediscover their Olympic legacy and to celebrate the reopening of the popular water ramps.
The splash pool and ramps have just undergone a $3 million expansion, along with a newly paved main plaza.
The day will kick off at 3 p.m. with Olympic-themed activities reminiscent of the park’s opening in 1993 when eager residents walked a gold medal mile while exploring the twisting track of ice and soaring ski jumps. At least a dozen local Olympic athletes are also expected to attend, many of whom have earned their medals at the UOP.
Afterwards there will be an opening ceremony (cue the Olympic theme music) at 6:30 p.m. and a return of the wildly popular Flying Aces aerial show beginning at 7:30 p.m. This time the Aces will really be able to spread their wings, taking advantage of seven new ramps and an enlarged splash pool.
In the 1990s when the Utah Olympic Park was under construction, many local officials and residents worried they might be building an expensive boondoggle. Instead they launched a legacy, one that is still churning out Olympic stars and putting Park City’s name on a global sports marquee.