The Provo City/Utah County Ice Sheet Authority might pitch the Olympic ice arena under construction in east Provo as a national training site.
Mayor Lewis Billings raised the possibility this week during the authority's monthly meeting at the request of resident Tony Marren. Marren sent the mayor a list of ideas aimed at taking advantage of Provo's status as a 2002 Winter Games city and keeping the Ice Arenas at Seven Peaks from turning into a white elephant."It's just a food-for-thought proposal," Marren said.
Authority members are willing to pursue any opportunities for the city to become a training facility for the U.S. women's hockey team or the U.S. Speedskating Association, with whom Billings met while attending the Games in Nagano earlier this year.
"There may be some ability to augment what already is a good thing," said Utah County Commissioner Gary Herbert.
The authority, however, isn't interested in allowing a national organization to overshadow a facility that has been touted as a community center. Jane Carlile, authority member, said the authority's role is to act in the best interest of residents. It's unlikely the two ice rinks will fall into disuse after the Olympics. Youth hockey teams and figure skaters will likeltake up most of the available ice time.
Herbert suggested the arena could host some sort of annual event, provided there is an economic benefit to doing so.
Organizations such as the U.S. Speedskating Association are interested in sites that provide sponsorships and free ice time. They also seek to train at high altitude, Billings said.
"The speedskating association also would be interested if we could entice them," he said, adding he'd like to build a third ice sheet after the 2002 Games.
While ice sheet authority members contemplate what might be, Seven Peaks owner Max Rabner is furiously working to complete the arena project this year. He asked Provo to put the final building plans on the fast track for review. Seven Peaks currently is working under a temporary construction permit.
Construction on the south side of the 80,000 square-foot building is moving rapidly, but a back order of massive structural steel girders is slowing work on the north side, Rabner said. He expects the steel near the end of June.
Rabner plans to ask the city for a partial occupancy permit to open one ice rink in September. He's targeting the end of the year for full completion.
"We're trying to move that ahead as fast as we can," he said.