Reaction of east-side Salt Lake residents to a proposal to build an Olympic speed-skating oval near their neighborhood includes some opposition, but unless someone comes up with some compelling reasons against it, city officials still prefer the site.
In a public meeting Wednesday of the Speed Skating Oval Task Force, about 20 residents said they opposed the site near the Steiner Aquatic Center adjacent to the University of Utah, six said they were in favor of the site, and six remained undecided.Following the meeting, Salt Lake City chief of staff Mike Zuhl said despite the informal vote, the city will pursue the possibility of building the oval in that area.
"From the mayor's (Palmer DePaulis) perspective, all of the concerns raised by the task force can be addressed satisfactorily," he said. "There really weren't any new issues raised here tonight."
The task force, which is made up of 20 area residents who live near the proposed site, reported in the meeting that certain conditions should be met before the group would lend its support to building the oval. The conditions were presented to DePaulis before he left last week for Japan.
Members say an "objective and unbiased" study should be done on how the oval will affect property values in the area.
Other conditions outlined by the group: a height restriction preventing the building housing the oval from blocking the view residents have of the east mountains, the relocation of a U.S. Forest Service building on the proposed site, a contract requiring the city to manage and operate the facility, and data proving the oval would be economically productive even if Utah doesn't win the 1998 or 2002 Winter Olympic Games.
Most of the east-side residents attending the meeting agreed with the conditions, and some who opposed the site said if the conditions were met, they would consider changing their minds.
But the whole idea of building the oval at that site may be nothing more than speculation.
Salt Lake officials have yet to acquire land on which a Forest Service building now sits and a water retention pond on Veterans Administration property - both of which would be needed to build the skating oval.
If negotiations between the city, state and federal officials fail, the oval would have to be built elsewhere, Zuhl said.
"I think this whole conversation is a lost cause," one resident said. "It seems to me that we shouldn't even pursue this idea until we know that it (building the oval on the proposed site) is a real possibility; it's just tearing the neighborhood apart."
Meanwhile, some residents wonder if the possible benefits are worth the money needed to build the oval. They argue that if another vote were taken on the use of public money to build venue sites, a lot of people would vote opposite of the way they voted in last November's referendum, which approved public money to fund the Games.