The state's Olympic facilities more than measure up to those built for the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, members of the Utah Sports Authority board said.
"Our facilities will favorably compare. They won't be extravagant," said Randy Dryer, chairman of the board that's overseeing some $59 million in state spending on sports venues for the 2002 Winter Games.Dryer spent nearly two weeks at the Nagano Games and found the facilities built by the Japanese to be "fairly extraordinary," especially in terms of how much money was spent.
For example, because of its unique design, the massive speed-skating oval known as the "M-Wave" cost more than 10 times as much as the Salt Lake Organizing Committee plans to spend on the speed-skating oval in Kearns.
But despite all the money the local and regional governments in Japan spent to build world-class sports facilities, most will be used for community recreation programs now that the '98 Games are over.
Utah's speed-skating oval, ice rinks, ski jumps, and bobsled and luge run will continue to be used by elite athletes after 2002, as well as to train future Olympians.
"I came back with a great sense of pride with what the sports authority did," said Charlie Wintzer, a member of the sports authority who also traveled to Japan.
Nagano's legacy is going to be infrastructure rather than an ongoing sports development effort, Wintzer said. The Japanese government spent billions on a new high-speed rail link to Nagano as well as new highways.
Dryer and Wintzer made their report to the sports authority on Thursday, coming to many of the same conclusions as officials of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee did.
The organizing committee is set to take over the state's Olympic facilities next year and begin work to ready them for the 2002 Winter Games, including covering the speed-skating oval at a cost of about $29 million.
Olympic organizers, who are relying on private revenues to pay the $1 billion-cost of hosting the 2002 Games, are obligated to repay the state's investment.
Besides coming up with $59 million that will be split between state and local governments, organizers have also agreed to set aside $40 million to keep the facilities operating after the Games.
A private, non-profit foundation has already been set up to assume responsibility for the facilities once the organizing committee is finished with them.