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After the cheers die down: the boon to Utah of Olympic facilities.


Whether Utah hosts the 1998 Winter Games, the state stands to win just from its commitment to prepare for the Olympics. With the goal of becoming the "Winter Sports Capital," the state is constructing training facilities to round out its already impressive skiing resources.

Should the state win the Olympics, construction would begin on even more hosting facilities. The tourism trade will have a record year in 1998. Financial services will be needed. Communications companies will upgrade phone and TV networks to each of the sites. A lot of media attention will focus on the Beehive State.

But what about afterward? What will Utah have to show for the effort? Is there a boom/bust cycle from hosting these Games? Who is going to pay for this? Is it worth it?

Utah has committed $56 million to construct and maintain several venues. One is the speed-skating oval. The other is the Winter Sports Park, now being laid out at the Kimball Junction off I-80 near Park City. At the park will be both a bobsled/luge track and the Nordic and acrobatic ski jumps.

The speed-skating oval is still in the preliminary stages, but the park is already designed and includes all but the K120 (90 meter) ski jump necessary to host the Olympics. Since the K120 jump is only used during Olympic competition, it will be the last item added to the park.

The Winter Sports Park is designed by a joint venture of Eckhoff, Watson and Preator, and Van Boerum & Frank Associates (EWP/VBFA). Project managers examined Olympic sites around the world. Doing so, they put together the ideal design for these facilities.

The Perfect Site

Not only were environmental issues of vital concern in designing the park (see sidebar), but the facility had to be located where athletes, team officials and spectators could get to it without a great deal of difficulty. Lake Placid, the other Olympic park in the U.S., is a two-hour drive from the nearest airport. Housing is limited. The community is very small, so only the few local people can take advantage of having the site there.

Not so at the Winter Sports Park. Athletes from schools throughout the Wasatch Front can drive to it in less than an hour. Athletes from outside the state find Salt Lake a short drive from the airport. In Salt Lake, they can have housing, schooling, and a place to work.

The bobsled/luge track and the ski jumps will be as good as any in the world. In fact, the track will be better than state of the art. A two-week conference of the international federations for bobsledding and luge - the Federation International du Bobsleigh et Tobaggon and the Federation International du Luge - and EWP/VBFA was unprecedented in Olympic history. The conference yielded a track unlike any designed before. It fits the terrain yet serves the needs of both bobsledding and luge. It will be the fastest such track ever, with speeds of more than 100kph for over half its length.

The Kimball Junction site also provides a protected hollow for the ski jumps. This hollow provides an updraft much sought after by ski jumpers, allowing them to fly higher and longer.

Salt Lake also will have the Larry H. Miller arena, now under construction. This is an added bonus, since it is privately funded, yet meets requirements for attracting major events. Hosting many of the regional, national and international competitions requires the increased capacity of the new arena. As a result, Salt Lake will now be hosting the 1993 U.S. Gymnastics Championships.

Boom or Bust?

If Utah does get the Games, will this mean a big boom in 1998, then a bust? A look at Calgary, the city most like Salt Lake to host the Olympics, shows that a boom and bust did not happen there. Studies by the Utah State Office of Planning and Budget show that Calgary did have large economic gains in 1988. Employment rose, tourism increased, and the city grew in prestige. These gains were maintained, the studies showed. While not reaching their record highs of 1988, these gains over previous years pulled Calgary out of its oil-bust depression.

Sounds good, but who is going to pay to have this Winter Sports Park and other facilities? Already built into the budget is $15 million to serve as an endowment to maintain the sites. So even without the Games, taxpayers will not be footing the bill. With the Games, a great deal more money will be put into the endowment. Calgary's Olympic-generated maintenance fund has prevented any loss to its taxpayers.

The Calgary experience also revealed a brisk summer business using the ski jumps and also the bobsled run as a wild, roller-coaster-type ride. The cost of maintaining the ski jumps in Canada is paid for by this summer trade alone. With Utah's park within a few minutes drive of Salt Lake City, this too could work here.

Is It Worth It?

Is building these facilities worth it, particularly if on June 15th the International Olympic Committee says no? Ask any winter sports athlete. Ask Zianibeth Shattuck-Owen, a member of the U.S. National Luge team. She and her husband Jonathan moved here from Lake Placid a year ago. She says Utah offers far more than New York for the amateur athlete. She highlights the close proximity to the University of Utah, where athletes can finish their degrees. Her husband, a paramedic as well as a national champion in luge, couldn't find work in Lake Placid.

She feels, then, that finishing these facilities will bring athletes to Utah. "Imagine," she says, "trying to run the NBA with only one arena to practice in. That's how it is with only Lake Placid."

Not only will current athletes want to come to Utah, but future performers will spring up locally. In Calgary, over 60 bobsled clubs were formed once the track was in place. The U.S. hasn't been able to develop a lot of preteen interest in bobsled/luge or ski jumping because the few world-class facilities were at Lake Placid. Few parents would send their children to a site without local schools, says Shattuck-Owen. Utah offers school-age children a place to practice and develop skills while letting them live in a metropolitan area.

Trish Kent, events director for the Utah Sports Foundation, agrees that adding these tracks is a plus, even without the Olympics. "I'm thrilled. These facilities open up a whole new world for us. Not only can we host the biggest amateur and professional sporting events, but we can run clinics to attract the newcomer to these sports."

In the end, Utah may or may not win the 1998 or 2002 Winter Olympic Games. But with the Winter Sports Park, the Speed Skating Oval, and the greatest snow on the slopes, the Beehive State will certainly have Olympic champions winning the Gold at these and future games.

Facilities Designed with the

Environment in Mind

"The Olympics should not be a project with environmental consequences," said Brad Barber, director of demographic and economic analysis of the Utah State Office of Planning and Budget. That goal is clearly seen in the design of the Winter Sports Park. This park is the result of a team made up of two Salt Lake firms: Eckhoff, Watson and Preator, and Van Boerum & Frank Associates. Working as a joint venture, they've taken to heart the need to create an environmentally conscious site for the Olympic park.

The key to their success has been careful planning. Since Utah has been working on the Olympic bid for some time now, the design phase could cover all the projected problems. The ideal site could be found and developed with the environment in mind.

An ideal site was found. Very little surface grading is needed to get the ski jumps in place at the Kimball Junction location. The bobsled/luge run also was fitted into that terrain with an eye to keeping the natural contours. David Eckhoff, chairman of Eckhoff, Watson and Preator, calls this the "Bing Crosby look" since the terrain, when snow-covered, maintains much of its preconstruction appearance even with the run.

The natural slope of the park means no tall ski towers will have to be built. Lake Placid, for example, has two seven-story-high towers which cut right through the forest skyline.

Before any construction crews entered the area, experts examined natural habitats. No detail was overlooked, whether it was eagles, hawks or moose, their migration paths, nests or dens. The final conclusion: the park would not interfere with any of the wildlife habitats. While animals do roam through the area, none actually make their home there.

The designers also evaluated the space requirements for construction. They then outlined exactly the area needed to do the work, leaving as much of the terrain undisturbed as possible. So after construction began, nylon rope barriers were set up so work would take place only within designated areas.

The careful review process means very few trees will have to be removed to construct the bobsled/luge run. The run lies in a forest of aspen trees, which lose their leaves in winter; thus, the trees will not obstruct the audience's view. The spectators will be able to see the entire course, and no trees will be cut down.

Getting those spectators to and from the sites also received a careful examination. The size of facilities are limited to just the number the area can support without impacting the environment. Buses will provide the key to keeping private vehicles out of the area.

Thanks to careful planning, no changes have had to be made on the plans to meet environmental concerns. Unlike previous host cities, Salt Lake won't be rushed into these games. Barber feels instead that they've done more than just build good sports facilities. "I believe this is a showcase of how to do this in harmony with nature."

Based in Provo, Utah, David B. Doering specializes in writing about technology and

PHOTO : Utah's new speedskating oval will host Olympic events and serve as a training site for the U.S. International Speedskating Association based in Park City, Utah.

PHOTO : Olympic Facility Sites 1. Reservoir (not shown 2. Bobsled Start 3. Mens Luge Start 4. Doubles/Ladies Luge Start 5. Weight House and Storage 6. Bobsled Finish 7. Luge Finish 8. Control Tower 9. Refrigeration Plant 10. Access Road 11. Summer Freestyle Training Jump 12. K-18 and K-38 Nordic Training Jumps 13. Ski Play Area 14. Lower Village (Administration, Training and

Athlete Housing) 15. Upper Village (Hotel, Restaurant and VIP

Facilities) 16. Freestyle Jump 17. K-120 Large Nordic Jump 18. K-90 Normal Nordic Jump 19. K-65 Nordic Training Jump
COPYRIGHT 1991 Olympus Publishing Co.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:forecast of business and industries after the 1998 Winter Olympics
Author:Doering, David B.
Publication:Utah Business
Date:Jun 1, 1991
Previous Article:Bobsled athletes anxious to come to Utah.
Next Article:Safeguard your nest egg.

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