And then there were two: Reno-Tahoe declines invitation to bid for upcoming Winter Olympics, leaving Salt Lake City, Denver as finalists

(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Athletes walk around the stadium during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games Closing Ceremony at Olympic Stadium Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. Salt Lake City, which hosted the Games in 2002, is in talks to host again in 2030. The Reno-Tahoe area, also in talks to host in 2030, announced it is dropping out of bidding.

And then there were two.

On Monday, the Reno-Tahoe Winter Games Coalition announced it has officially declined an invitation to bid for a future Winter Olympics. That leaves front-runner Salt Lake City and Denver as the last two selected finalists by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) to be a future bid city.

The USOC is expected to choose its bid city for a future Winter Games by the year’s end.

A statement from the Reno-Tahoe coalition said that after reviewing its detailed workbook covering bid vision, venue planning, transportation planning, budgets and public engagements, among other topics, it came to the decision that a 2030 Olympics in the Reno-Tahoe area “would not be feasible financially for our region.”

The statement added that the Reno-Tahoe area will not give up on its aspirations for hosting a future Olympics. If another bid cycle beyond 2030 arises, the region would be “poised to once again engage.”

The coalition explained that due to Los Angeles hosting the 2028 Summer Olympics, Los Angeles has exclusive marketing rights starting from 2019 through the 2028 Games, which made it unrealistic for Reno-Tahoe to be able to pull off hosting an Olympics. The Reno-Tahoe bid budget models were based on a traditional seven-year marketing and sponsorship cycle. This shorter timespan simply wouldn’t work for the region.

“We have maintained from the start that a Reno-Tahoe bid would have to make sense economically, environmentally and socially,” said Reno-Tahoe coalition board chairman Brian Krolicki. “Given the parameters and conditions presented, we cannot make the numbers pass muster. To continue, at this point, would be untenable and unwise.”

That leaves the USOC with two options: Salt Lake City and Denver. The USOC is scheduled to have a five-person team visit Utah on Wednesday to go through a full-day on-site look at how the city and state have prepped for a potential Olympic return. USOC officials along with local leadership will travel throughout the state to check venues from Salt Lake City’s 2002 Games.

“I’d like to thank the Reno-Tahoe Winter Games Coalition for participating in our process up to this point,” USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland said in the release. “The leaders in Nevada and California have demonstrated an incredible commitment to Olympic and Paralympic community and the athletes we all serve. The USOC looks forward to continuing to work with the RTWFC to identify new opportunities to take advantage of the tremendous assets the state of Nevada has to offer.”

Reno-Tahoe officials spoke to the Salt Lake Tribune last year of their respective pitches for why the region could host a future Games and just how it stacks up against a place like Salt Lake City. Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve said there was “buzz and excitement” in the Reno-Tahoe area about potentially hosting an Olympics in the future. The last time the region was tabbed was in 1960.

Andy Wirth, CEO of Squaw Valley Resort, said fellow bid cities knew even a year ago, “that Salt Lake and Utah are the platinum standard.”

Now the USOC has a little over a month to choose which Rocky Mountain city it wants to roll with.