A steady procession of winter sports experts and athletes from around the world will stream into Utah in coming years.
They'll want to know how hard ice gets in February, how deep and dry the snow is at Deer Valley Ski resort and which way the wind tends to blow off the ski jumps at the Winter Sports Park.The athletes will test and try every venue Salt Lake City has set up to host the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, often by participating in world-class competitions. They'll hope to gain the same edge - familiarity - that budding local athletes expect to give them an advantage in the Games.
If Cynthia Ruiz was the Salt Lake Bid Committee's "secret weapon," the already constructed venues were their trump card.
Never before has a city vying to host the Winter Games been so pre-pared so far in advance of hosting its Games.
"A key factor in the IOC's decision was that our facilities and infrastructure are already in place," said Mark Menlove, president of the Utah Ski Association. "What this means to the people of Utah is that we simple move ahead preparing the details to host the 2002 Games."
Only one venue - the Salt Lake Ice Arena - remains to be built. The other eight sports sites are in place or nearly completed. A couple of venues will be modified just prior to the start of the Games.
At the Delta Center, for example, the floor will be raised 6 feet to give spectators better views of figure skating and men's ice hockey competitions.
Several auxiliary facilities are largely in place or in progress, such as the Salt Palace Convention Center, where 7,000 to 10,000 journalists will set up operations during the Games. Still ahead is construction of the Olympic Village at the University of Utah.
Utah got its jump-start in 1989 when it opted to go ahead and build venues before knowing whether it would ever get the Games.
"At the time in '89 we had not just the Olympics in mind but making the Wasatch Front a winter sports capital," said Tom Welch, president of the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee. "This makes the investment by the taxpayer so much more valuable. The facilities are already being used, and they will be for generations to come after the Games."
Among those heaving a sigh of relief when International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch named Salt Lake City as host of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games was Randy Dryer, chairman of the Utah Sports Authority.
The Sports Authority was set up by the Utah Legislature in 1989 to build and operate the winter facilities. It built the venues using one-eighth of 1 percent sales tax collected by the state since 1990.
It would have fallen to Dryer and his committee to figure out what to do with the venues if Utah failed to win the Games.
Before leaving for Budapest, Hungary, to participate in the announcement, the volunteer committee drafted two alternative budgets for the coming year: one if Salt Lake City won the Games and one if it didn't.
The committee meets Friday to adopt the "yes, we won it" version. It also has other pleasant decisions to make. Although its budget was $59 million, the Sports Authority will spend roughly $56 million to build and operate venues through 1999, when it will sell the facilities to the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee.
The $3 million contingency fund would have helped the state run the facilities through 2002 if Salt Lake's bid failed. Now the Sports Authority can use the money to improve the venues - paving the parking lot at the Winter Sports Park, putting in restrooms at the park or maybe buying another Zam-boni ice-grooming machine for the Oquirrh Oval.
"Our primary role was building the Olympic facilities," Dryer said. "That will have been fulfilled by the end of next year. After that our role will be limited to operating the facilities until we turn them over in 1999."
The Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee has agreed to pay the state $99 million for the venues. Of that amount, $40 million will be placed in an endowment to operate the facilities after the Games are over.
Repayment is guaranteed what amounts to a lien against sale of television rights to broadcast the Games, which is conservatively estimated at approximately $400 million.
"Regardless of whether the Games are profitable or not, the taxpayers are assured they will be repaid for the facilities and there will be an endowment for the future," Dryer said.
And the Sports Authority's task will largely be complete.
"It will be one of the few state agencies that is created, worked itself out of a job and goes out of business," Dryer said.
Snapshots of the venues and facilities that will be used Feb. 9 through 24, 2002, follow:
Olympic Village: The Olympic Village will be located at the University of Utah, where a new complex of apartments will replace existing student housing. The village will house 4,000 athletes, coaches and trainers during the Games.
Each room will be equipped with a computer that can be used to check schedules, weather conditions and keep in touch with a delegation. Athletes will have access to repair shops, recreational and work-out facilities and 24-hour food service.
When the Games end, the U. will take over the complex again and use it as student housing.
The Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee will contribute $28 million for the apartment-style dorms, which are expected to cost $70 million to build. The U. will issue revenue bonds worth $42 million, which will be repaid through student rental fees. Construction will be under way by 1999.
Rice Stadium: The U.'s Rice Stadium will be used for the opening and closing ceremonies. The stadium, which now holds 32,000 people, will be expanded to accommodate 50,000.
The Salt Lake Organizing Committee will contribute $8 million toward construction costs.
The U., which was already on track to renovate the stadium, will cover the rest of the $50 million project. Construction is expected to be finished in time for the 1999 football season.
Salt Palace Convention Center: More than 7,000 journalists from around the world will file stories from the Salt Palace Convention Center, which will serve as the main media center.
Salt Lake County will rent the facility to the Salt Lake Organizing Olympic Committee for $4 million, according to Commissioner Brent Overson.
Gallivan Center: The Gallivan Center will be renamed "Olympic Plaza" during the Games. As in Lillehammer, athletes will receive medals in ceremonies at their event sites and again later in daily medal ceremonies at Olympic Plaza.
Delta Center: Figure skating and men's ice hockey events will be held at the Delta Center.
So what happens to the Utah Jazz during the 22 days the Delta Center will be devoted to the Games? Jazz management hopes the NBA will schedule the team for road trips during those weeks.
There is one major modification planned for the center: The floor of the arena will be raised 6 feet to improve spectators' views of events. That will take out about 5,000 seats, leaving room for 15,000 people.
Another cosmetic change planned is removal of signs advertising business. Commercial advertisements at venues are a no-no.
Cottonwood Heights Ice Arena: Curling competitions will be located at the Cottonwood Heights Community Recreation Center.
The center will remodel its locker rooms, upgrade the heating and cooling system and increase its seating from 1,200 to 2,000 to accommodate the event. Cost of the improvements will be picked up by the Olympic organizing committee.
The committee will rent the facility at going rates in 2002.
The Ice Sheet in Weber County: As many as 2,000 people are expected to watch the women's ice hockey competition at the Ice Sheet in Weber County.
The $6.25 million facility opened in April 1994. It operates 14 hours a day during the summer and 19 hours during the winter to meet demand of skating and hock-ey clubs.
The Sports Authority picked up $3.25 million of the construction cost, while Weber County contributed $2 million. Private donors paid the rest.
Park City and Deer Valley ski areas: The slalom, Giant slalom and freestyle competitions will take place on runs at Park City and Deer Valley ski resorts. Snow-boarding, which may premiere as a medal event in the 1998 Olympic Winter Games, also will be held in the area.
In all, a total of 16 events will be held between the two resorts. The Organizing Committee has not decided exactly where the events will be held.
The ski area is accustomed to hosting world-class events; it has hosted World Cup ski races since 1985 and also hosted the 1985 International Winter Special Olympics Games.
C.B.'s Run, a giant slalom course that opened in the Eagle Race Arena in the Park City Ski Area in November 1994, may be used for giant slalom. Clementine Run, also in the Eagle Race Arena, may be the site of slalom events.
Some improvements will be necessary to groom runs and make way for spectators along courses.
Snowbasin Ski Area: The Tommy Moe of 2002 will wow crowds in downhill races planned for Snow-basin Ski Area, site of both the men's and women's events. Super G competitions also are planned for Snowbasin.
Bernard Russi, the downhill gold medalist in the 1972 Winter Olympics, will design both courses.
Winter Sports Park: Utahns and athletes are already making jumps, flips and splashdowns at Winter Sports Park facilities in Summit County.
The 387-acre park, which opened during the 1992-93 season, is the Utah Sports Authority's primary project. The Winter Sports Park has the only full-scale jumping facility in North America open to the public.
More than 2,000 people, ranging in age from 3 to 70, have participated in jump programs at the park.
But its crowning moment will come in 2002 when it is the site of ski jump and nordic-combined com-petition and bobsled and luge events.
The first phase of the park included construction of K-18, K-38 and K-65 training jumps and a K-90 or normal hill, as it's called in jump lingo. The "K" refers to the "sweet spot" on the hill, the point at which the ground no longer slopes down.
Now that Salt Lake City is assured the 2002 Games, the centerpiece of ski jumping - a K-120 or large hill - will be built. The tab for the new jump will be covered by the Organizing Committee.
The Sports Authority also built a summer splash pool and freestyle aerial training facility at the park. Aerialists speed down a ramp covered with a synthetic material to get airborne and then land in the pool.
More than 30 athletes from around the world have visited the park to train at the state-of-the-art facility, one of two such pools in the world.
Still under construction is the $21 million bobsled and luge run. The tracks for the two events have different starting points but eventually meld together.
The track will have mounts for video cameras at 35 different points, so coaches and athletes can review every major turn. It also will include 12 television camera platforms.
The total investment of the Sports Authority in the Winter Sports Park will be about $45 million, including construction and operating costs through 1999.
The organizing committee will make several million dollars worth of improvements to the facilities - adding seating and press facilities, for example - prior to the Games.
Mountain Dell Park: Mountain Dell will host the biathlon, cross country and nordic combined skiing events.
The park already has hosted the World Cup cross-country competition, the Biathlon Race Series-Far West and the International Prestone Cross-country Sprint Race.
Snow-making equipment will be bought for the park to boost snow cover if necessary.
Oquirrh Park Skating Oval: The $4.2 million Oquirrh Skating Oval in Kearns is slated to open for in-line skate practice later this summer, after rainy spring weather delayed progress on the track.
The 400-meter track will be used for speed skating events. The Organizing Committee will pay to enclose the oval, probably in 1999 or later.
Salt Lake Ice Arena: The Salt Lake organizing committee will spend $8 million building a new ice arena that will be a site of men's ice hockey competition. The committee wants to build the 8,000-seat arena close to the Olympic Village.
That will ensure the arena can be heavily used by the University of Utah's athletic and recreation programs in the future.
The site the committee prefers is next to the Steiner Aquatic Center. Construction would likely begin in 1999.