The giant key that passed hands Tuesday outside the new Joe Quinney Winter Sports Center came with a condition: "Use it and enjoy it, but come April we want it back."
With that, Salt Lake Organizing Committee president and CEO Mitt Romney took the four-foot-long key with the Olympic logo printed on it, said thanks and to himself gave a deep sigh of relief.
Located between the bobsled run and the ski jump arena at the Utah Olympic Park, the new 29,000-square-foot center is nearly ready to be occupied short-term by the world's media during the 2002 Winter Games.
"This is a big plus for us," said Romney as he spun around to look at the three-story structure with the etched-glass front. "The world media will be warm and secure, in a well-lit building, instead of having to stay in the tents and trailers we would have had to use."
The new building will be the media subcenter for journalists covering ski jumping, luge, skeleton and bobsled.
In 1989, Alan Engen expressed a wish to David Amidon to build a small A-frame structure near Alta to display the hundreds of awards and memorabilia belonging to Alf Engen, his father, who is recognized as one of the great pioneers of skiing.
The wish eventually led to the construction of the $10 million Joe Quinney Winter Sports Center, which next spring will house, among other things, the Alf Engen Museum and a display of the 2002 Winter Games.
Money for the center came in a number of ways, said David Quinney, trustee for the S.J. and Jessie E. Quinney Foundation, a major contributor to the center. One of those was from private donors, who "gave $5 and $10, up to $100 and $1,000," he said. "All total, these amounted more than $1 million."
In order to use the building during the Olympics and Paralympics, SLOC contributed $250,000 to the fund.
The center is expected to open to the public in early June. The museum will take up 5,000 square feet and the Olympic showcase another 4,500 square feet, with the remainder housing an auditorium and a small eating area called the Ecker Hill Cafe. The cafe is named after the once-famous Ecker ski jumping hill that is located over the mountain to the north.
The most striking feature of the new building is the "glass" front. Etched in Plexiglas are the names, logos and a two-story resemblance of Alf Engen in a classic ski jumping pose.
"We originally wanted to use glass," explained Alan Engen, "but it was much too expensive. We chose, instead, to use Plexiglas. They etched in the figures and then put on a special backing to make it look like real glass."
Romney talked about the generosity of people, not only towards this building but to other causes. He mentioned about initial doubts of SLOC raising $50 million for the Games through local contributions and sponsors, "and instead we raised $150 million."
He also told the group that a special Olympic pin, with red and white bars and a blue crown commemorating last week's tragedies in New York and Washington, was designed and offered over the Internet Monday night.
"It hit the news and was reported that the pin would cost $5, but that $4.62 of that money would go to the victims in the Sept. 11th tragedy," he said. "When I left my office this afternoon, we'd sold 50,380 pins."
E-mail: [email protected]