Editor’s note: this story pairs with “Utah’s Olympic venues need almost $40 million in repairs.”
Salt Lake City could become the fourth location to host a second Olympic Winter Games after the Utah Olympic Exploratory Committee released a report recommending a bid for the 2030 games.
“Utah is in a better position to host in 2030 than at any time in its history,” the committee’s report said.
The committee, led by co-chairs Fraser Bullock, Wayne Niederhauser and Jeff Robins, finished the report on Feb. 1 and presented it to the state later that week.
Bullock, a BYU alum who co-founded Sorenson Capital, said one of the committee’s goals was to try to balance the budget — if not create a surplus.
“Part of the report includes an economic impact analysis done by the Cam Gardner Policy Institute at the (University of Utah), and it indicates that the economic impact for 2002 was $6 billion and forecasts that it would at least be that amount again,” Bullock said. “We’re not asking for any taxpayer dollars as part of this, which is very hard to do economically because most host cities lose billions of dollars — including Pyeongchang.”
The 2002 games generated a $100 million surplus after an initial budget of $1.3 billion. Bullock added with the current infrastructure, reaching that goal is a real possibility.
“One of our key advantages this time is we have all the venues in place,” he said. “They are all very active, which is unique in the Olympic world. (In) almost every case, many of the venues fall into disuse. A new bid, given those active venues, makes it possible for us to have a good budget, a reasonable budget, to at least break even, if not generate a surplus.”
In addition to infrastructure savings, Bullock cited experience from 2002 as another way a planning committee could create additional savings.
Altogether, he said the budget for a 2030 bid would be less expensive than the one in 2002, even after adjusting for inflation.
“Existing infrastructure is just a big deal,” Bullock said. “It really helps.”
The venues that were used in 2002 were listed in the Olympic Exploratory Committee’s report and multiple submitted letters of support for a new bid.
Weber County Parks and Recreation Division Director Todd Ferrario said Ogden’s venue, the Ice Sheet, has added 73,000 square feet since hosting curling in the 2002 Olympics and is used year-round.
“They created a new lobby, created two community rooms for things like birthday parties, work parties, meetings — whatever they need to be used for,” he said.
The additions, along with a 70-yard indoor turf field that Weber State University often uses, allows the venue to be used more often.
Jake Drzayich, general arena manager at Provo’s Peaks Ice Arena, said similar improvements have been made at the Provo venue.<
The arena, which held ice hockey events in 2002, had its chiller system replaced three years ago and has installed two indoor turf soccer fields.
“During the winter, those fields are booked solid,” Drzayich said. “That’s allowed us to bring new customers to the building, allowed more people to be exposed to our building and what we offer.”
Both Ferrario and Dryzayich noted if the Olympics were to return in 2030, beyond physical structure and game-specific needs, the technological capabilities of the venues would have to be updated.
“The wiring, the infrastructure, cyber optics, things that would need to be run through the building as it was for the last Olympics, would need to be updated just because (of) the bandwidth required,” Ferrario said.
Another advantage listed by the committee’s report is the accessibility of public transportation.
According to the report, UTA’s rail network is almost seven times greater than it was in 2002, covering 135 miles now compared to 20.
Light rail additions now connect the Salt Lake international airport and Maverik Center, which hosted ice hockey events in 2002, to downtown.
Lines already exist that connect the downtown area with the University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium, which would host the opening and closing ceremonies, and student dorms, which were used as the 2002 Olympic Village.
Beyond the Salt Lake Valley, the Frontrunner commuter rail line extends to Provo and Ogden; both cities hosted an Olympic venue in 2002.
UTA Spokesman Carly Arky also noted the 10-mile Orem-Provo rapid bus transit system is scheduled to open this August.
Climate change has been pointed to as a limit for potential host cities.
An article from the New York Times shows nine previous hosts are either not reliable or at a high risk of not being cold enough or generating enough snow to support the games beginning in 2041.
However, Salt Lake is listed as a reliable source in the article, meaning it has a 90 percent or higher chance of producing days with freezing temperatures and enough snow during an Olympic-hosting period.
But that percentage is no guarantee, as has been seen across the state this winter.
Just 163.5 inches of snow fell at Alta Ski Resort between October and Feb. 12. A database from the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget shows that between 1960 and 2002, Alta averaged 510 inches from November through April, with 470 inches falling between November 2001 and April 2002.
“In any given winter, you’re never quite sure exactly what the conditions are going to be like,” Bullock said. “That’s why February is so optimal, because even if you have a slow start to the year, like we had here, right now we still have plenty of snow to be able to do the Olympics.”
Additionally, with a potential World Cup in 2026 and the Summer Games in Los Angeles in 2028, it could be a busy period in the United States.
“L.A. really doesn’t want someone coming in front of them,” Bullock said. “So having us go after them would make a lot of sense for them.”
What happens next?
After the committee submitted its report, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a concurrent resolution on Feb. 6 supporting another Utah Olympic bid and will send copies of the resolution to the International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic Committee and the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation, among others.
The International Olympic Committee has said the United States Olympic Committee should put forward one interested city by March 31, 2018 in order to be considered in the next round of bidding.
Denver and the Reno/Tahoe area have also expressed interest in representing the United States for the 2026 or 2030 games.
The United States Olympic Committee has yet to announce a process for selecting a city.
If Salt Lake City is selected, city officials would engage in dialogue with the International Olympic Committee and would be invited after October 2018 to join the formal candidature stage.
Normally the international committee would only be considering bids for 2026. However, after breaking that precedent and awarding the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games simultaneously last September, it is possible the committee will award both the 2026 and 2030 Winter Games in September 2019.
Internationally, Sion, Switzerland received backing from the Swiss government to pursue a 2026 bid and the Olympic Exploratory Committee’s report lists Calgary, Canada; Stockholm, Sweden; and Saporro, Japan as potential bidders for 2026.