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Groundbreaking set for sports center, museum
$9 million center at Sports Park opens in fall 2001

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 24 1999 12:00 a.m. MDT

The first to use the new Joe Quinney Winter Sports Center, when it's completed in the fall of 2001, will be Olympic officials, members of the world media and athletes.

The following summer the full-time residents will move in -- a pair of Norwegian skis from the 1800s, wooden staves carved by a miner during the Alaskan gold rush, leather ski boots, metal skis, baggy ski pants and a whole room of trophies, medals and pictures, a legacy left by one of Utah's most recognized ski pioneers -- Alf Engen.Official groundbreaking for the Joe Quinney Center, with one wing set aside for the Alf Engen Ski Museum, will be held Saturday morning at the Winter Sports Park.

Construction on the center, which will be located directly west of the day lodge and jumping pool at the Sports Park, will begin next year. It will be completed in time to become a venue headquarters for the 2002 Olympics.

The $9 million, 29,000-square-foot, three-story building will hold the museum, an auditorium/theater/conference room, Olympic highlight gallery, cafe, retail shop, research library, interactive sports exhibits and outdoor decks for watching the nordic and aerial freestyle training areas.

Funding for the building came mainly from private donations. The land where the center will sit was donated by the state, "making this a very good public/private partnership; a great place to showcase the community story," said Randy Montgomery, executive director of the Alf Engen Ski Museum Foundation.

"By having a permanent structure at the Sports Park, the Salt Lake Olympic Committee will save several hundred thousand dollars by not having to build temporary facilities. For our part, we get a site after the Games as a ski-history museum that will capture not only Alf Engen, Utah skiing and the Olympics but also the history of winter sports in the Intermountain West."

Alan Engen, son of the late skiing legend and chairman of the Engen foundation, said he started looking into a center in 1988 to display his father's large collection of memorabilia. He ruled out several locations for various reasons before settling on the Sports Park.

Not only did the area fit into the theme of the center and offer year-round access, "but it is also very close to Eccer Hill, where Dad set several world records. I always felt it would be sad if we let this part of history disappear." (Eccer Hill was an early ski-jumping site located in what is now the Pinebrook community.)

The museum will not only hold a number of Alf Engen's awards but also some of his skis and ski attire, as well as picture and movies of early skiing.

There will also be a display of skiing equipment -- past, present and some future gear, said Engen.

The center will also facilitate other uses, including music series, lecture and film series, weddings and banquets.

"We'd like to see this become a community culture center anchored by the museum and Olympic gallery," added Montgomery.

"We also expect to get a lot of school groups. There will be a lot of interest in the Olympic gallery. We'll have a number of displays, including uniforms and the Olympic torch, and possibly run an Olympic highlights movie on the hour and a movie on the history of skiing on the half-hour. A database will be available that will immediately access Olympic information available by name, event, venue and country.

"We're also looking at introducing some interactive simulator programs. One could involve the ski jump. Visitors would stand on a platform and be able to actually feel what it would be like to ski down the in-run, then takeoff. We could also do this with a slalom or the bobsled."

The third part of the center would be a research library that would have both text and photos available.

During dedication ceremonies, Engen will also release a Web site page at www.engenmuseum.org, which will show video clips of early skiing and information on the center.

The museum displays will be built off-site to scale and then placed in the center after the Olympics.

"I honestly believe," concluded Engen, "that this museum is going to be a real eye-opener. This will be the finest display of skiing history of its kind in North America."

The lead contributor to the museum was the Joe Quinney family. Quinney was one of the founders of Alta when Alf Engen was ski school director and then director of skiing up until his death in 1997 at age 88. He taught skiing for more than 60 years, was a national champion many times, helped design and build more than 30 ski areas, most notably Alta, and helped pioneer both ski equipment and skiing technique.

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