Utah taxpayers could end up the big winners should Salt Lake City be host for the 1998 Winter Olympics, benefiting from as much as $900 million being injected into the state's economy, a state economist told an Olympic organizing subcommittee Friday.
Construction activity, operation of the games, visitor spending and television revenue could generate between a $700 million to $900 million economic impact for the state, said Brad Barber, state director of economic and demographic analysis.Economic figures are preliminary, Barber told the communications subcommittee of the Salt Lake Winter Games Organizing Committee. The figures, derived from a 1985 Olympic feasibility study, are in 1989 dollars.
"Hosting the Olympic Winter Games in Utah can be accomplished without any cost to the taxpayer," Barber said. Some taxpayer dollars would be needed initially to help construct some facilities, however.
"There may need to be an initial investment by taxpayers but Olympic revenue could compensate them," he said. "Therefore, the taxpayer can be a net winner."
Tax revenue generated before and during the games could be $28 million to $37 million and all public service costs, such as police protection, would be paid for with Olympic revenue, Barber said.
Long-term economic benefits from revenue generated by increased tourism and future use of Olympic facilities from Utah promoting itself as a winter sports capital would help pay off and provide return on public investment, he said.
It is too early to tell how much taxpayer money would be necessary Barber said. Public support however, wouldn't approach the projected $85 million to $130 million in capital costs for construction, he said.
Some facilities could be built by private organizations. For the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, several multimillion-dollar facilities were built by businesses without tax dollars, he said.
Still, support in the form of tax dollars should be considered by state legislators during January's legislative session, said Mike Zuhl, chief of staff for Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis.
The U.S. Olympic Committee, the body that will choose a U.S. city this spring to bid for the games internationally, is requiring bidding cities to have financing mechanisms in place for a bobsled/luge run that could cost more than $20 million, Zuhl said.
Barber said past experiences of other Olympic host cities have also been positive. Calgary, which was host for the 1988 Winter Olympics, now shows an $84 million surplus, he said, noting the Canadian and provincial governments contributed millions of dollars to Calgary's Olympic effort, however.
"That's probably a lot more than we would want to (contribute) or could afford to in Utah," Barber said.
Much of the Canadian government support went toward building facilities that had uses other than those related to the Olympics.