Several winter sports facilities left behind after the 1988 Winter Olympics feed from a $70 million bottomless trough known as the Olympic Legacy Fund that generates $3 million in interest annually to finance their operation.
The fund was created from a $36 million surplus and millions of dollars in separate contributions to sport by Calgary organizers in the wake of the Games, which cost nearly $700 million.The endowment fund, required by the International Olympic Committee to ensure the viability of Olympic training facilities and athletic programs, primarily helps to fund Calgary's $56 million Canadian Olympic Park.
The park, once a small ski area, now is home for three practice ski jumps, a 70- and a 90-meter competition jump, Calgary's bobsled-luge run, an athlete's training center and the Olympic Hall of Fame.
The $56 million complex costs $3 million yearly to operate, according to owner Canadian Olympic Development Association (CODA) but draws hardly enough revenue to operate a single ice box, let alone a 1,475 meter bobsled run.
The bobsled-luge run at the park generates only 8 percent of its operating costs, or $722,000 yearly - collected from training fees and $100 rides on the bobsled run.
Additionally, the speed skating rink on the University of Calgary campus operates at a $1 million deficit, a cost shared by CODA, the university and the Province of Alberta.
Yet Canadian sports officials say the legacy fund and its $3.6 million annual revenue stream, expected to flow virtually forever, will cover costs of operating the facilities.
"There's no way you could make it (Olympic Park) profitable on its own," said Bill Neild, finance manager for CODA.
"It was always built with the assumption that interest from the endowment would help to fund the park," he said.
Olympic Park enjoys $3 million yearly from the endowment, Neild said, but relies on $1 million in revenues from the park, from the financially successful Saddledome and other sources. CODA shares some roughly $1.3 million of its $3 million yearly legacy installment with the speed-skating oval.
Calgary organizers also built an entirely new $26.5 million ski area, called Nakiska, owned by the Alberta province but operated privately by Ski Kananaskis Inc. The facility gets no endowment support and is expected by owners to make a "marginal" profit this season for the first time.
The $16.7 million Canmore Nordic Center, site of cross-country skiing events for the 1988 Games, operates at a $552,000 annual deficit. However, manager Ron Henderson says the facility was intended to be a no-fee park following the Games.
"The government is quite content to run it as a public facility," he said.
Utah organizers plan to rely on existing downhill ski areas and a nordic center now under construction by Salt Lake City. However, organizers want $56 million in public money to build a bobsled-luge run, speed-skating rink and ski jump.
Olympic Park. Includes ski jump complex, bobsled-luge track, athletic training center, Olympic Hall of Fame. It cost $56.3 million to build,* $3 million annually to operate. The bobsled-luge run, for example, provides in revenues only 8 percent of its operational costs. The park operates at a $2.1 million deficit but enjoys $3 million annually in support from the Olympic Legacy Fund.
Speedskating oval. It cost $31.2 million to build, $1.3 million annually to operate. User fees generate $220,000 in revenues. It operates at a $1 million annual deficit, but enjoys $850,000 from legacy fund and support from University of Calgary and Alberta Provincial government.
Nakiska (downhill venue). It cost $26.5 million to build. The facility is owned by the provincial government. Private owner Ski Kananaskis Inc. won't disclose its finances, but reports expected "marginal profit" this ski season. No support from legacy fund.
Saddledome (hockey venue). It cost $76 million to build and was financed by city, provincial and federal government. It is now privately owned by Saddledome Foundation and operated by the Calgary Exhibition & Stampede, which won't disclose finances but reports continuous "healthy profits."
Canmore Nordic Center (cross-country skiing venue). The facility cost $16.7 million to build. It is owned by Alberta province and operates at an $552,000 deficit. However, managers point out the facility is a "no-fee" park open to the public and is operated as a public park.
*all figures in U.S. dollars
Sources: Saddledome Foundation, CODA, Ski Kananaskis Inc., XV Olympic Winter Games: Official Report, Alberta Provincial Govt.