Two months ago, Ogdenites ate humble pie and felt betrayed as they gave up their chances for an Olympic speed-skating oval for "the good" of Salt Lake City's bid for the 1998 Winter Games.
Monday, they were tasting sweet victory as Ogden was selected over Provo and Salt Lake City as the winner of the Utah Sports Authority's final prize - an Olympic ice rink - funded by $54 million sales-tax diversion approved by voters last November.The board voted 12-2 to site the ice rink - which would be used for preliminary Olympic figure skating and ice hockey - on the northwest corner of the parking lot of the Dee Events Center. It will award $3 million for a rink that Weber County officials say will cost close to $4 million.
"I think they (city residents) will be ecstatic. I am very pleased with the proposal," said Ogden Mayor Scott Sned-don Monday afternoon.
Only Francis Suitter, a Salt Lake resident, and Carol Thorne of Utah County voted against Ogden's bid.
In July, the board had awarded a Winter Sports Park with ski jumps and a bobsled-luge run to Summit County, a speed-skating oval to Salt Lake City and left Provo, Salt Lake City and Ogden to compete for the ice rink money.
All three cities presented bids to the board Monday morning for the funded ice sheet. If Utah gets the 1998 Winter Games, the bid committee has promised that the Salt Lake and Provo ice sheets will be built. The board has also agreed to award the losing cities $100,000 each for design of the future ice rink.
For now, the Sports Authority decided to spread around the Olympic glory. Salt Lake City will get the speed-skating oval with a possible future interior ice sheet, chairman Ian Cumming said.
"And those people in Provo have a hell of a good football team to watch meanwhile," he continued.
Ogden's edge in the voting came as officials said they already have commitments of $755,000 in private and public funds to combine with the $3 million. Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis said he could only get the extra money for an ice sheet at the Steiner Aquatics Center, 700 Guardsman Way, through private fund-raising.
Provo Mayor Joseph Jenkins said that his city only needed $3 million to build an ice rink at a site near the Seven Peaks Resort.
Ogden made a strong case that the rink would help the growth of amateur sports in northern Utah and showed support of local governments from Layton to Logan. Currently, an antiquated ice rink in west Ogden serves hockey teams and skaters. Weber County will sell the rink and the land where the rink sits. The proceeds will help fund the new facility.
Monday's decision comes after the Utah Sports Authority board followed the recommendations of the chairman of the Salt Lake Olympic Bid Committee, Tom Welch, to move the speed-skating oval from either Provo or Ogden to Salt Lake City. Welch said that rival candidates for the 1998 Games had found the siting of an Olympic oval outside Salt Lake City to be an Achilles heel in what Welch hopes is an iron-clad bid for the games.
The Olympic Bid Committee's change of heart didn't go unnoticed.
"Somebody was making promises who didn't have a right to make promises," said Jenkins.
"We were on the line of scrimmage and the quarterback called different signals," William Bailey, Weber County Commission Chairman, said.
Under the Weber County proposal, the Sports Authority would lease land from Weber State University for $1 for about 50 years, said Max Thompson, Weber County Olympic organizer.
Ogden City and Weber County will provide up to $50,000 annually toward operation and maintenance costs of the ice sheet.
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