Cache County wants its piece of the Olympic pie - a slice worth more than $1.75 million toward a new ice arena where athletes would train for the 2002 Winter Games.
But the state agency responsible for overseeing the construction of $59 million in Olympic facilities, the Utah Sports Authority, has nowhere near that much money left.Only about $220,000 in the budget remains unallocated. The amount would have been even less, except that members of the Sports Authority were reluctant Thursday to approve several items in the budget without more information.
Members of the delegation from Cache County that pitched their project to the Sports Authority before the budget vote asked for $100,000 or whatever funds were available plus support for getting $1.75 million from the Legislature.
What they got was an endorsement of the ice arena, which is expected to cost $5.8 million. So far, they've collected about $670,000 from private and public sources, including $250,000 from the Legislature.
The "Bridgerland Ice Arena," as it's being called, would be built near North Logan and Hyde Park on property already set aside by Cache County for a high school and recreation center.
As proposed, the arena would open in November 1999 with Olympic-size ice and seating for 2,000 spectators. It would become the home ice for the Utah State University hockey team, which now plays at the Ogden Ice Sheet.
In addition to giving the community a place to skate besides a flooded field in a Logan park, the ice arena would be used by Olympic skaters to train even before the 2002 Winter Games, backers believe.
Sports Authority members hesitated at approving even $100,000 - the same amount set aside for the Ogden Ice Sheet as well as rinks in Provo and Salt Lake City - out of concern other communities will make similar requests.
"We can expect (those requests) and we'll have to treat other parts of the state fairly," said Marlow Goble, a member of the Sports Authority from Cache County.
He and other members suggested coming up with criteria that communities asking for financial support would have to meet for either funds or the Sports Authority's backing before the Legislature.
As much as $10 million more than the $59 million that the Sports Authority is authorized to spend will be collected in the special revenue fund created to pay for Olympic facilities.
The money is coming from a share of state and local sales taxes set aside over a decade for a bobsled and luge track, ski jumps, a speed-skating oval and ice rinks.
The Utah Winter Sports Park, site of the bobsled and luge track and the ski jumps, and the state's interest in the speed-skating oval at the Oquirrh Park Fitness Center in Kearns, will be turned over to Olympic organizers next year.
The Salt Lake Organizing Committee has agreed to repay the $59 million spent on the facilities and establish a $40 million endowment that a private foundation will use to run them after the Olympics.
Lawmakers decided to cap spending by the Sports Authority at $59 million, although the additional revenues accumulated before the tax set-aside expires could be tapped for Olympic projects with legislative approval.
That's what Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, hopes will happen next session. Hillyard, the Senate's assistant majority whip, told the Sports Authority the money should go for winter sports projects.