Park City leaders twice in the last week spoke of the prospect that a second Winter Olympics could create funding opportunities as City Hall continues to consider what are anticipated to be high-dollar infrastructure projects, particularly transportation improvements.
The recent Olympic mentions are more evidence of the desire of the municipal government to parlay a Games into something that will advance City Hall’s own goals for the community. Salt Lake City is the U.S. bid city for a future Games, with the event in 2030 or 2034 appearing to be a possibility. The Park City area is key to the overall Olympic concept, with three major competition venues identified on the Games map.
There is typically a vast amount of federal monies made available to an Olympic host once it is selected. The funds are considered to be needed to prepare for a Games, and much of it is put toward infrastructure. City Hall envisions tapping those funds should an Olympics be awarded and wants to ensure it is poised to proceed with projects as the International Olympic Committee makes decisions about future hosts.
Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council are amid a series of lengthy, difficult discussions about the plans to build an arts and culture district along Bonanza Drive and Kearns Boulevard. The district is seen as a crucial location for transit as well. The talks, which continued on Thursday, are unfolding with financial questions related to the impact of the spread of the novel coronavirus still a worry.
The Olympic funding possibilities were briefly broached at the meeting. City Councilor Tim Henney said there is talk of the IOC making a decision about the upcoming Games within a year, contending “there’s a high likelihood that Salt Lake and Park City are going to play a significant role and have a great chance.” If that is the case, he indicated, the broader discussions about infrastructure are also looming.
“Transportation solutions of that magnitude and scale, you know, have to have something that brings federal dollars, state dollars, significant money to the table. … We’re not that far away from having real conversations about using the Olympics as an organizing principle,” Henney said.
The comments by Henney followed two days after the mayor delivered the annual State of the City address, touching on the Games in his remarks. Beerman said the Olympics in 2002 contributed to an era of growth that followed those Games.
“The problem is ever since the Olympics we’ve continued to boom and in a lot of ways we’ve outgrown both our physical and our social infrastructure. So my hope is the Olympics will put a mark on the map that this time we can catch up to those things,” Beerman said. “That gives us a time that we know we have to have our transit dialed in by 2030, we know we need more housing by 2030 and we know we need to deal with some of these inequities in our community.”
He also mentioned the possibilities of Park City benefiting from monies that would be linked to Olympic preparations.
“I think just like the athletes are going to be training … for the Olympics it will put our community on a training program and give us some firm goals. And it will also give us the opportunity to get some state and federal funding that will help push those forward,” Beerman said.
City Hall is attempting to address issues like transportation and housing that have perplexed Park City leaders for decades. They are some of the most difficult topics, though, since transportation and housing projects are usually costly and require significant land, meaning any Games-related assistance in the funding would be welcomed.
The strategy of successfully tapping Olympic monies has a local precedent as the municipal government in the years before the Games in 2002 secured assistance from Washington to fund most of the cost of the construction of the Old Town transit center and the related roundabout.
The concept of Park City seeking funds related to Olympic preparations is starting to be mentioned more often even with it appearing the IOC will not decide the hosts of the Games in 2030 and 2034 for some time. In one instance, some of the elected officials in October appeared to see there being a possibility for Olympic-related financial assistance if City Hall pursues the construction of an aerial transit network.