Olympic venues offer tourism and jobs


    By Cheryl Catts

    With the Summer Olympics just around the corner, Salt Lake City locals will pass the host-city torch to the good people of Athens, Greece, and sit back to watch someone else host the party.

    Those who suggested Salt Lake City did the best job of hosting the Games in Olympic history would say Athens now carries a great responsibility to live up to the precedent Salt Lake City established.

    The responsibility does not come without its fair share of advantages, however, as seen by the numerous cities competing for a bid to host future Games.

    Since the Olympics descended upon Utah more than two years ago, the state has seen many positive results, from tourism to job and business creation.

    These impacts serve as a living legacy of the Games in Salt Lake City and prove the city’s success in hosting the games.

    “The fact that we hosted the world and did such a magnificent job implies that we can certainly host individuals on leisure travel vacations,” said Jason Mathis, director of communications for the Salt Lake Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. “We can certainly host conventions. We can host skiers. We will always have that in our back pocket.”

    Thanks to the Olympics, Mathis said many people are aware Salt Lake City as a vacation destination.

    During the Olympics, Utah hosted an estimated 250,000 people, and more than two billion people around the world tuned into the Games, creating exposure to the state that could not be received in any other way.

    A study done by Worthlin Worldwide following the Olympics discovered 7.1 million adults say they are more likely to vacation in Utah as a result of the 2002 Games, the Governor’s office reported.

    The state is on track for a record-breaking ski season this year, and hotel occupancy numbers are higher than they were before the Games and continue to be higher than in competing destinations, Mathis said.

    The most successful post-Olympic efforts for travelers have been the Olympic Parks located throughout the state, Mathis said.

    Soldier Hollow, Utah Olympic Oval and Utah Olympic Park are still in operation, attracting tens of thousands every year who wish to recreate the magic they experienced as they witnessed the Games.

    “We believe these three venues are living and breathing legacies of the Games, whether you are a tourist, spectator, a recreational athlete or an Olympic athlete,” said Frank Zang, director of communications for the Utah Athletic Foundation.

    In the summer-friendly parks, tourists can try a 70-mile per hour bobsled simulation or skate the 400-meter Olympic Oval, one of two of its size in the nation available to the public.

    In all, 14 of the 15 sports on the Olympic program are available to the public, among the three parks, with the exception of alpine skiing, which is available to the public around the state.

    The non-profit organization that runs the facilities, the Utah Athletic Foundation, reported that in the year following the Games, 65,000 tourists visited the sites. With a month left to go, the count is already at 70,000 this year.

    The numbers attending the facilities continues to grow, Zang said.

    “The legacy [of the Olympics] is not a museum, or something to look at or a highlight tape of the games,” Zang said. “It’s the fact that the public can come out and participate in activities at each of these venues.”

    While the venues do attract many people and help keep the spirit the Games alive in Utah, the cost is not cheap.

    “It’s obviously very expensive to operate the Legacy facilities, and without the surplus from the games, we do not generate enough revenue,” Zang said.

    The facilities, which have an operating budget of $10 million, are run, in part, on the interest gathered by the $100 million legacy fund left to the state to maintain the parks.

    These high operating costs, in addition to costs to prepare for the Games, cause many states to shy away from the opportunity to serve as a host city.

    However, Utah experienced $4.8 billion in revenues from the Games, resulting in $1.5 billion of income for Utah workers during 1996-2003, the Governor’s office reported.

    Utahns have not only benefited from the revenue and income generated from the Games, but also from the development of facilities and opportunities available because of them.

    Gateway Mall, the Grand America hotel, the refurbishment of downtown Salt Lake and Temple Square, TRAX, the upgrading of ski resorts and improved airport security are just a handful of upgrades in the state post-Olympics.

    The Games provided opportunities for the state to receive improvements it may not have received otherwise.

    “I was a little apprehensive that after the games we wouldn’t have anything new to talk about,” Mathis said.

    However, he said the Clark Planetarium, Salt Lake Library and the Children’s Museum, have all been constructed or upgraded within the last year.

    The governor’s office said the economic payoff in Utah from the Olympics will be measured in decades.

    Print Friendly, PDF & Email