Utah’s Olympic venues need almost $40 million in repairs

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Editor’s note: This story pairs with “Olympic Exploratory Committee gives 2030 bid green light.”

Venues from the 2002 Winter Olympic Games need $39.3 million in repairs and other expenses to bring them up-to-date with current sports’ specifications and safety standards, according to a performance audit of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation.

The audit also showed that the current legacy fund, which was established after the 2002 games with a budget of $76 million, is insufficient to cover both annual operating losses and improvements.

Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, has filed a bill to have the State of Utah fund the $40 million needed for the venues; the audit recommended the Legislature cover the cost, as it did in 2002 with an initial payment of $59 million.

Utah Olympic Exploratory Committee co-chair Fraser Bullock said the 2002 legacy fund was designed to cover those annual losses.

“(When) we established the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation, we left behind an endowment of $76 million, so the earnings off of that endowment could be utilized to subsidize the operations of these venues, which has been very important,” he said.

Bullock added this legacy fund model was different from past Olympics. It allowed the venues to remain active as opposed to becoming economic burdens that went unused after the Games ended.

The audit estimates the Olympic Oval, located in Kearns, would need just over $10 million in repairs while the Olympic Park in Park City would need almost $21 million in repairs.

The oval’s biggest individual expense would be replacing the roof, which is estimated to cost $1.75 million.

Almost a quarter of the park’s repairs estimate is for repairing the bobsled retaining walls.

Additionally, Soldier Hollow Nordic Center, which falls under the UOLF’s responsibility, needs over $7 million in repairs.

Together, the three venues run by the UOLF hosted nine events in 2002, ranging from bobsled and luge to speed skating and cross-country skiing.

“Although it’s a big number, I think we’ve done a great job over the last 16 years of minimizing costs and being smart with our funds and our endowment to keep maintaining our facilities at a world-class level,” said Olympic Oval Sport Program Director and Olympic gold medalist Derek Parra.

The UOLF said in response to the audit that it can cover the estimated 10-year, $170 million operating and maintaining budget but would need the State to cover $40 million needed for repairs.

The Salt Lake Organizing Committee paid the state back and the audit suggests the same could be expected if a new round of taxpayer money was appointed to the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation.

Bullock said the planned repairs also helped the Utah Olympic Exploratory Committee keep its budget for 2030 low.

The committee’s report supporting a bid for the 2030 Winter Games said potential hosts’ budgets would be between $2.5 and $4 billion due to infrastructure costs, while Salt Lake would be able to have a budget of $1.35 billion.

The Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation added in response to the audit that $35 million would be needed in improvements to prepare its venues for a new round of Olympic games and that money would be privately funded.

If the state approves the funds, the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation would receive around $4 million annually until 2028.

The money would be divided among the three sites, with the Olympic Oval’s roof being one of the first major projects undertaken in 2019.

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