Salt Lake City officials awakened Friday morning to a surprise gift — they now have their very own Hoberman Arch.
"I saw that in the paper," said City Councilman Kyle LaMalfa. "We didn’t know anything about it."
Mayor Ralph Becker’s spokesman Art Raymond conceded the news of the Olympic legacy artwork’s change of ownership caught the administration off guard, as well. "We don’t know where it’s going," he said. "We’re talking to Public Services and the Arts Council."
One thing is sure, the University of Utah is tearing it down and packing it out of its location just outside Rice-Eccles Stadium. University officials announced late Thursday they are turning the arch over to Salt Lake City and will bear the $116,000 cost of dismantling and moving the 36-foot high, 72-foot wide web of aluminum.
The Olympic Legacy Foundation confirmed Friday that, indeed, the Hoberman now belongs to Salt Lake City.
It isn’t as though city leaders don’t want the intriguing 2002 Winter Games icon. In fact, they have often discussed making it a centerpiece of a future Olympic Legacy Park. But for now, the multi-faceted and expandable object d’art is headed for storage.
The Salt Lake (Olympic) Organizing Committee had attempted to give the arch to Salt Lake City in 2002 along with $8 million to $10 million for a legacy park, according to Fraser Bullock, SLOC’s former chief operating officer.
Then-Mayor Rocky Anderson wanted to put the arch at Pioneer Park. But the City Council favored Gallivan Plaza. The council eventually won out, but there was a hitch: No non-Olympic sponsors could share the plaza with the word "Olympics" or the Olympic rings.
Although options were explored to overcome the problem, talks bogged down.
Eventually, SLOC grew frustrated with Salt Lake City and the arch landed on the U.’s campus.
This time, it will be different, Raymond said.
"We want to carefully vet the next home for the arch," he said. "This is a very large piece of art. It has a mechanical element and expands and is really quite amazing."
Among the drawbacks of its U. of U. home was the site was too cramped for the arch to be expanded into its former Olympic glory.
Council Chairman Charlie Luke agreed.
The arch needs a special place and should be part of an Olympic Legacy Park, he said. To that end, the city should carefully consider its options.
"We should look for an overall plan for an Olympic legacy," Luke said. "It should be interesting enough to be a destination."
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