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Olympic Village a class act

Published: Saturday, Jan. 27 2001 12:00 a.m. MST

It will feature a veritable herd of hot tubs, the state's only all-night McDonald's and a ton of fun for Olympics athletes not too pooped to party.

Those are just a few of the appointments at Olympic Village, the gated community nearly ready for the 3,500 athletes, coaches and officials expected to start moving in a year from Monday for the 2002 Winter Games.

The Salt Lake Organizing Committee officially put out the welcome mat and held an open house for the news media

Friday, offering a tour of the mostly completed facility where competitors will live from Jan. 29 to Feb. 26. The 10 renovated buildings on the Fort Douglas Officers' Circle and a million square feet of new construction that make up the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Village at the University of Utah will be home away from home for 1,100 athletes during the Paralympics March 1-19.

According to SLOC, most village residents will live two per bedroom and four per bathroom. There are 2,100 bedrooms, 160-square-feet each, that come equipped with a single-mattress bed, a desk and a shared sitting area.

The 70-acre village offers 24-hour dining, a group of eight outdoor hot tubs and eventually a nightclub along with other entertainment and recreation activities.

Although having places to hang out with fellow athletes is a feature U.S. Ski Team downhiller Alex Shaffer likes, it's the hominess and thick walls ("good for sleeping") that are most attractive to her.

Shaffer said because her events are in Park City and at Snowbasin near Ogden, she might not live at the village during the Games.

"But I have the option, and like any athlete, if you get a chance to get plush like this, you like to take advantage of it," Shaffer said, noting that facilities at her first Olympics in Nagano were "not even close to this."

The quality was intentional because the village has what SLOC and the university hope is a 100-year post-Olympics life as student housing.

"These aren't your standard university dormitories," said U. President Bernard Machen. "Most universities couldn't afford to build housing of this quality, and without the Olympics we wouldn't be able to do that either."

Machen said he is particularly proud that the university could integrate construction of the village with Fort Douglas. Along with providing needed housing for students, the project revitalized the fort, he said.

Except for a few historic buildings, most of the structures at the former military outpost are part of the village, SLOC officials said. The renovated buildings on Officers' Circle will become the Village International Zone featuring a bank, post office, store and newsstand, salon, coffeehouse, photo shop and florist, along with a World Wide Web center and dry cleaners.

The fort, founded in 1862 by the Lincoln administration and named in honor of Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln's opponent during the presidential election of 1860, once stretched from where the Block U near university hospital is today to Emigration Canyon and along 1300 East. Over the years it has been ceded back to the state to be used as university property.

Officer living quarters at the fort have been remodeled as student living areas, part of the $164 million Heritage Commons project. Students there and in the new buildings must move out Dec. 15 to alternative campus housing for spring semester to make room for the athletes.

SLOC has agreed to pay the university $31.6 million to essentially rent the housing from Jan. 9, through March 27, 2002.


E-MAIL: jthalman@desnews.com