The director of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, which holds a crucial vote on the U.S. Olympics Committee, is impressed with Salt Lake City's proposed bobsled and luge venues.
But despite two strong possible sites for the sport, Salt Lake City doesn't hold an edge over other cities bidding who are considered contenders in the race for the 1998 Winter Olympics, the director said.The federation is in Salt Lake City meeting with members of the Salt Lake Winter Games Organizing Committee to lend their expertise to the city's efforts to build an Olympics-class bobsled and luge run.
"I'm impressed, frankly," Director David Heim said of the city's two sledding sites in Summit County. One site is adjacent to the historic ski-jumping site, Ecker Hill. The other is on Quarry Mountain near Park City.
But Heim added Salt Lake City fares no better than other Olympics bid cities, chiefly Denver and Reno-Lake Tahoe, Nev., when it comes to their respective bobsled and luge sites.
"I'd say they're all about equal," he said, adding that Anchorage "shouldn't be permitted to bid" for the Games because of its failure to adequately support building winter sporting facilities.
The USOC, reinforced by a directive from USOC Vice President and New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner to better support winter athletes, wants to see more winter sports training facilities in the nation.
Chief among those in need of training centers are the bobsled and luge racers. USOC officials have said they will look to bobsledders and lugers when they cast a vote to select a U.S. bidder for the Games in June.
Last year the USOC voted to require cities bidding for the Games to finance building several Olympics facilities, including bobsled and luge runs, before placing their bids with the USOC. In 1991, the International Olympics Committee chooses an Olympics host.
State Director of Economic Analysis Brad Barber said recent polls show "wide-spread" support for using public money to finance facilities such as a bobsled and luge run.
He assured the federation the state would have "ample funding" for building Olympics facilities via the Utah Winter Games Authority, formed by the Legislature to collect $4 million annually in sales tax for the Olympics.
"So we believe that this money is in fact in the bank," he told the federation.
Beginning in 1990, if state voters approve the Olympics in a fall 1989 referendum, the authority could generate $55 million in 10 years and $147 in 20 years.
Although Heim was enthused about what Salt Lake City had to offer his sport, he said he was more interested in convincing the city that a bobsled luge run "is not a big, white elephant."
"I think there is a way you can market this facility and make it pay for itself," he said.