Utah Olympic Park to make a splash with water ramps
When the aerial jumps at the Utah Olympic Park’s pool were built in 1993, no one anticipated just how popular they’d be.
Fast-forward to 2014 and the jumps are at capacity all summer long as part of the Olympic legacy from the 2002 Winter Games.
But the jumps aren’t going to be a viable option for much longer, Hilton and USSA Executive Vice President of Athletics Luke Bodensteiner agreed.
"They’re pretty much at the end of their useful life," Bodensteiner said. "Everybody’s pretty astounded that we got as many years out of the current design as we did. It’s basically a wooden structure that’s covered with water all summer."
"A modernization of a 21-year-old design is only appropriate and is absolutely the thing to do to set us up for the next 20-plus years," Hilton added.
So the Utah Olympic Park, USSA and the Legacy Foundation are teaming up on a $3 million renovation project that will bring the Park’s jumps up to date with the progression of winter sports. A slopestyle jump, new aerials jumps, smaller jumps for kids’ programs and a moguls jump will be put in place before next summer.
"These jumps, when they were put in, were pretty unique," Bodensteiner said. "But they really are built for aerial skiing, which was one half of freestyle when these were put in, moguls being the other half. Now, there’s been a great evolution with slopestyle skiing, halfpipe skiing and, we hope by 2018, big air skiing and snowboarding. We’re taking the opportunity to add in sport-specific ramps that will help us train those kinds of athletes as well."
One of the new jumps will be specific to the sport of slopestyle. It will be 16 feet wide and feature a 15-foot kicker. But, Hilton said, though the ramp is designed to train top-level athletes, it can be modified quickly to train younger athletes, too.
"The cool thing about it is we’re doing this for the high-level athletes, but also for the kids’ programs," he said. "That same 15-foot kicker will be able to have its top come down so it’s not 15 feet, it’s at a lower height that’s more size-right for kids in the development programs."
In the current setup, the ramps tower above the surface of the pool. Bodensteiner said that will also be addressed with the redesign.
"We’ve learned a lot about the safety and protection of the athletes that use this," he said. "One of the design elements that we’re putting into the jump is to bring it down lower to the surface of the water so there’s less landing impact. The athletes cope with it, but after a long summer of jumping, it starts to take its toll on backs and joints."
But, Bodensteiner added, it’s not just the ramps that will be getting renovated – the pool will expand, too.
"It’s going to get bigger," he said. "Part of the project will be an expansion of the pool to accommodate both a longer horizontal jump, as you’d see in a slopestyle jump, and also the addition of a permanent climbing wall."
The pool’s bubble system, which sends bubbles up to the surface when jumpers are airborne to break the water’s surface tension and create a softer landing, will be redone as well.
"The best part is we’ll be able to have multiple ramps going at the same time," Hilton said. "Right now, we’re only capable of being able to put one ramp in motion at a time. That’s limiting, because we’re only using one of our six ramps at a time. We’re going to be able to use two ramps at a time now, so we’ll be able to double our capacity. That’s important because from Memorial Day to Labor Day, from 8 a.m. to 7 at night, we’re at capacity."
The renovation project is expected to be complete by June 1, 2015, Hilton said, in order to minimize the impact on athlete training.
"Normally we start [training] in May, so we’ll have about a three-to-four week impact," he said. "But the timing, why we’re doing this when we are, is to do this early in the four-year Olympic cycle."
"It was sort of do it now or wait another three or four years to avoid an impact on training for Pyeongchang," Bodensteiner added. "That really put into question the viability of the jumps going forward."
When the jumps are complete, Bodensteiner said it will only increase Utah’s prominence on the Olympic scene.
"It’s really going to be a statement about this community and this state and our role in the Olympic legacy," he said. "This will really reignite this facility and this community as a place where a lot of international teams are going to want to come train. We know that Utah has been and will continue to be a major player in the Olympic sphere. We hope dearly that the Olympics come back here someday and we believe that they will. We want to continue to demonstrate that we have a strong commitment to the Olympics through the legacy here."
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