U. backs going for Olympics again, wants rest of Fort Douglas
The University of Utah would "enthusiastically" support another Salt Lake City Olympics especially if it helped the U. acquire the rest of Fort Douglas.
That was one of the key points in a 24-page report presented last week to U. President David Pershing by a 12-member working group of school officials. The report was prepared in response to inquiries from the state's Olympic Exploratory Committee about the U.'s interest in being a venue if another bid is launched.
During the 2002 Winter Games, the U. was the site of Opening and Closing ceremonies, the Athletes Village and a polyclinic.
To house the 3,500 athletes and team officials who stayed in the Athletes Village a decade ago, the U. built a $120 million complex of residence halls on 12 acres of Fort Douglas land acquired from the Army in 1998 with congressional assistance. The Salt Lake Organizing Committee kicked in almost $28 million to the cost of the project.
Anticipating a future Winter Olympics will require a bigger village, the report, overseen by Arnold Combe, the U.'s vice president of administrative services, said "it would be critical that the Army Reserve at Fort Douglas be declared surplus by the Army well in advance of the Games so the university could obtain the added real estate and develop facilities needed to support the expanded requirements."
Added a subcommittee section written by Michael Perez, associate U. vice president for facilities management, and chief strategy officer Patricia Ross: "Additional Olympic housing will not be possible in a secure environment, similar to the 2002 Games, without securing this real estate."
The U.'s supportive position is quite helpful to bid prospects, said Colin Hilton, executive director of Utah's Olympic Legacy Foundation and member of the Exploratory Committee, which met Thursday at Salt Lake City Hall.
"Where most organizing committees have troubles is with their Athletes Villages," said Hilton, a SLOC manager during the 2002 Games. "This gives a lot of peace of mind about how we can do it again."
Appointed in February to advise Gov. Gary Herbert on the wisdom of Salt Lake City pursuing a second Winter Olympics, the Exploratory Committee's goal is to produce a draft recommendation by July 1.
In the next few months, the U.S. Olympic Committee is expected to decide whether to put forth American cities as candidates to stage the 2022 Winter Games, 2024 Summer Olympics or both.
U.S. bids were suspended after New York and Chicago lost badly in bids for the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics, defeats the USOC interpreted as International Olympic Committee retribution for a long-standing dispute between the two organizations over distributions of revenue from sponsorship and broadcast agreements. That dispute was resolved last week.
In the meantime, Utah's Exploratory Committee members have questioned various groups involved in the 2002 Games about their perspectives on another bid. So far, members have reported nothing but support for the idea.
None of the responses was as detailed as the U.'s report.
Besides the desire to acquire the rest of Fort Douglas, the U. would like the Olympic organizing committee's input on plans to add up to 11,000 seats to Rice-Eccles Stadium through a $68 million expansion of the south bowl. That work is scheduled to be done before 2022.
Olympic involvement also would be sought to provide additional seating for the news media and to upgrade the facility technologically, assuring cellphone reception in all areas, the report said.
The school would need to find alternative housing for up to 700 international students who might be displaced by a future Games (about 100 students were affected in 2002), the report said. In addition, Olympic organizers would have to build a new polyclinic because its 2002 home the U.'s Guest House no longer would be available.
Another Olympics at the U.?
A University of Utah report on prospects of another Olympic bid by Salt Lake City was supportive as long as:
• The Games did not disrupt students' pursuits of degrees, academic research efforts and provision of medical care at University Hospital facilities.
• No state educational funds go to the Olympic effort.
• U. staff at campus facilities are not to be replaced during the Games by Olympic organizing personnel.
• The U. assumes greater control over organizers' financial agreements that bring in value-in-kind goods.
• Agreements are signed governing post-Olympic restoration of facilities, insurance coverage for all types of incidents during the Games and the establishment of protocols for tracking goods and services.
By mid-July, Utah's Olympic Exploratory Committee expects to make a recommendation to Gov. Gary Herbert on whether Salt Lake City should pursue another Winter Olympic bid.