Members of the Utah Sports Authority traded their typical business attire for parkas and hiking boots for a helicopter trip to what they hope will be the site of Olympic bobsled, luge and ski-jump competitions.
The trip under overcast skies Monday from the Park West ski area to remote Bear Hollow marked their first visit to what would be an Olympic venue if Salt Lake City is named host of the 1998 Winter Games.The sports authority members and several members of the media were flown to a clearing overlooking both the Bear Hollow Canyon site of the bobsled-luge run and the nearby mountain where ski jumps would be located.
There, officials from the state Division of Facilities Construction Management and other Olympic planners asked them to imagine the $30 million winter sports park among the scrub oak, aspens and pines.
"It's hard to describe. They have to see it," Division Director Neal Stowe said while leading a group to a vantage point near the pass where the bobsled-luge run would begin.
Part of what they were asked to see were the changes made as a result of a land donation by a California-based developer planning to build single-family homes on the other side of the pass.
C.C. Myers & Co. donated 300 acres of land in and around Bear Hollow to the state in exchange for a road that will be built using part of a $2 million state grant.
The donation enabled the state to proceed with plans to locate the winter sports complex in the Bear Hollow site despite opposition from an adjacent landowner, the Hi-Ute Investment Co.
The Hi-Ute Investment Co. had refused to sell land to the state and has filed suit in 3rd District Court in Summit County to stop the transfer of the grant from the state Community Impact Fund Board to Summit County.
During a brief meeting before the tour, sports authority members agreed that just three of them should complete a contract freeing the International Olympic Committee from financial responsibility for any judgments against the Winter Games.The version approved by the Salt Lake City Council last week transfers the liability for the Winter Games from the city to the state. In exchange, the city is transferring all profits from the Winter Games to the state.
Assistant Attorney General Joe Tesch told the sports authority members that there are still some changes that need to be made in the contract, but that they are not substantial.
Sports authority members discussed allowing the contract to go to the IOC with the city's bid next month with just the city's signature and the understanding that it would be approved later by the sports authority.
After a plea from Neil Richardson, Salt Lake Winter Olympic Board of Trustees member, they decided to let Chairman Ian Cummings, Vice Chairman Scott Nelson and Randy Dryer negotiate a final contract on their behalf.
"Everyone was planning on being able to fulfill your end," Richardson said, adding that the Utah Sports Authority was expected to sign the contract sent with the bid.
One signature that will not appear on the final contract is that of the Legislature. A requirement in an earlier draft calling for lawmakers to approve the contract was removed at the request of legislative leadership.
A detailed report on the bid, which is due in the hands of the IOC on Nov. 1, will be presented at the next scheduled meeting of the Utah Sports Authority.