By CHARLES BREINHOL
An Olympic legacy is rising in Utah, and Provo City and Utah County officials say they are determined to help ignite enthusiasm and keep it aflame by constructing in Provo a practice arena for 2002 Winter Olympic ice sports.
Bringing no new taxes and increasing recreational opportunities, the officials said the $7 million ice sheet will be a benefit to the community. The venture still awaits final approval from the Olympic Organizing Committee before legal contracting can be completed, but Provo officials said they are confident the plans will be approved.
In early August the Olympic Organizing Committee released a list of Olympic funding expenses to the press after announcing NBC’s television rights. Provo was listed as receiving $3 million to help fund an estimated $7 million practice venue.
“They’re publishing it so I guess we can assume they’re going to come through with it,” said Provo Mayor George Stewart.
If the $3 million is provided by the organizing committee, the money will not be disbursed until 1999. A bank note will be authorized. The Utah Sports Authority has already allocated funds to cover the interest payment that will be accrued on the loan.
Provo City and Utah County will jointly fund the other $4 million for the ice sheet. The cost will be split evenly.
“Provo’s estimated $2 million is already planned for and will not call for increased taxes. A hotel/motel room tax that is already in place will provide the means for funding. This tax produces $300,000 to $400,000 each year for city spending. A $2 million general promise bond will be taken out against the hotel/motel tax,” said Lewis K. Billings, Provo’s chief administrator. Billings heads the ice sheet campaign for Provo.
Utah County will supply its estimated $2 million by using revenue generated from current restaurant taxes and transient room taxes.
“The county would use some of the restaurant tax monies to pay back our portion of the mortgage payment on the ice sheet, but the bulk of the funding would come from a transient room tax,” said Utah County Commissioner Gary R. Herbert.
There is agreement for the funding of the facility, but not for its location. Three possible sites have been discussed for the rink. The first is at 1850 South, east of the East Bay golf course. The second is at 2250 South and the third location is south of the proposed Fashion Mall as part of a proposed recreation center.
An argument that was presented about placing the practice rink near the mall is that it will benefit commercial business. Billings said the Utah Sports Authority stated it does not wish to help fund a commercial venture, but is not totally against constructing the ice sheet near the mall.
Herbert said the site needs to be accessible to all parts of the county and large enough to allow expansion.
Another factor in building near the proposed mall is that the size of the ice sheet facility will be large enough that if it is built on the expensive land near the mall it may reduce potential taxable income by $1 million, Billings said.
The ice sheet will be a 20,000 square foot facility. It will have 800 fixed seats, room for 1,200 temporary seats and is designed for expansion.
“Ogden built an ice sheet two years ago and it is used so much that it is open from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. If the community wants it, we want to be able to expand,” Billings said.
“We have tremendous needs for ice time. … We are excited to provide the service for the whole community,” Stewart said. “The city needs the rink. There has been an increased interest in rollerblading and street hockey. Provo wants to provide a place for the youth to play hockey.”
Herbert said an ultimate goal of the Olympics and one of the reasons they assist in funding athletic facilities is to promote amateur athletics.
“You’d hope someone would become inspired to become a world champion figure skater and use this facility for training and the opportunity to develop their talent,” said Herbert.
Since they are splitting the costs, the county and Provo City will have joint control of the facility, with a governing board formed to run the facility. Provo and the county will each elect half of the board members, giving both parties 50 percent control.
If authorization is granted, construction will begin in 1999 and is projected to be completed within 12 to 14 months.