Complying with a U.S. Olympic Committee order to have in place $20 million in financing before submitting a U.S. bid for the 1998 Winter Olympics will be a formidable task for Salt Lake City, City Hall officials said.
And the requirement may be so difficult to fulfill that the city will try to convince USOC to rescind the order or at least soften its requirements before the city submits its bid for the games in June 1989.This weekend, USOC, the group that chooses a U.S. bidder to vie internationally to host the winter games, agreed to open up national bidding to cities other than current U.S. contender, Anchorage.
But the committee also passed an amendment requiring bidders to assemble a financing package to pay for three Olympic venues before the cities submit their bids next year.
The venues include a bobsled and luge run, which could be combined, and a speedskating rink. The bobsled-luge could cost $6 million to $20 million, according to committee delegates.
"It's not a reasonable expectation that cities can come up with the money without some reasonable expectation that they will be awarded the games," said Mike Zuhl, Mayor Palmer DePaulis' chief of staff.
Meeting the order would require the city to scramble to come up with ways to finance the facilities before it submitted a written bid in April. Alternatives include public-private partnership funding, donations or bonding, Zuhl said.
Revenue bonds, repayed with revenue from Olympic facilities, could be issued to fund the projects, Zuhl said. The state could issue general obligation bonds, requiring a bond election this spring, to provide funding, he said.
Zuhl said he believes cities competing with the Salt Lake City in the bid - such as Anchorage, Reno-Lake Tahoe, Nev., and Lake Placid, N.Y. - won't be able to meet the criteria and will ban together to lobby the USOC.
City officials must meet individually with USOC members to express concerns over the amendment, Zuhl said. If it can't be rescinded, perhaps another alternative could be negotiated, he said.
For example, Zuhl said, Salt Lake City has already demonstrated an ability to fund other Olympic venues such as the Olympic-class nordic ski center at Mountain Dell Golf Course, demonstrating the city's financial commitment, Zuhl said.
"I think we can show them we're willing to go to great lengths to put up funding towards some of these facilities," he said.
USOC officials did not return phone calls by press time Tuesday to respond to the possibility the amendment would be rescinded. A local television station, however, quoted one USOC member Monday as saying he was doubtful the measure would be rescinded.
Zuhl said the city would continue exploring financing alternatives regardless of the outcome of efforts to rescind or modify the USOC measure.
"If we're going to be a serious contender for the games, we have to go about seeking ways to finance these facilities," he said.