The chance to host the 1998 Winter Olympics is a knock on the door for Utah, with the door opening to the world, a member of the Salt Lake Winter Games organizing committee said.
Brad Barber, a committee member since 1984 and state director of data resources, spoke at the annual Real Estate Seminar held this week at Utah State University.The annual seminar is sponsored by USU's College of Business Partner's Program and the Utah Association of Realtors and the Cache County Board of Realtors. Other speakers during the daylong seminar included Gov. Norm Bangerter, Bobbie Coray, chair of Metro Utah Inc., Norman Flynn, president elect of the National Association of Realtors, and David Seiders, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders.
Utah's economic development and education cannot be separated, said Gov. Norm Bangerter.
"You can't separate your business success from the state's success with education," Bangerter told more than 100 Realtors, bankers and students.
"I think people have come to the conclusion that the schools don't belong to parents or children," Bangerter said. "Our major challenge is to rekindle family interest in our schools. We can't just send our kids off to school and expect them to be educated if we're not sitting down with them at home to make sure they understand their schoolwork."
Barber said Utah's statewide referendum Nov. 7 to determine how voters feel about helping finance the Winter Olympics is unique among hosting sites.
"The citizens of Utah are being asked to endorse the Olympics bid or to reject it," he said. "No other place has ever taken such a vote to determine citizen support."
While the November vote is considered a non-binding resolution that the Olympic committee could accept or reject, Barber said all elected officials and organizing committee members have agreed to accept the decision of the voters.
"If the voters say no we will cease our efforts," Barber said. "If the vote is successful we must begin development of facilities."
The United States Olympic Committee, which selected Salt Lake City over several other applicants, required the winner to begin constructing some of the needed facilities before the bid to the International Olympic Committee in June 1991. Barber said this is one way the U.S. committee can be assured of training sites for U.S. athletes.
He said $40 million has been designated for new facilities. Barber assured his audience of Realtors that no new taxes would be raised.
"Existing taxes will be redirected over a period of 10 years to build this $40 million," he explained. "It comes out to about $25 per person over 10 years."
Barber than asked, "Since this is an investment of our tax money, what do we citizens of Utah get from it?" Based on figures from Calgary, Canada, where the most recent Winter Olympics was held, Barber said the total economic impact could be $925 million.
"Television rights are the biggest producer of revenue," Barber said.
"Television rights are sold about five years before the Games begin, so if we are successful in our bid we would begin receiving television payments before the event. Television rights, corporate sponsorship and licensing brought in nearly $80 million in Calgary."
Barber said there are stories about Olympics that have been financial fiascos. One advantage Utah has over some in the past, and even some of the other cities bidding for the 1998 Olympics, is that many of the facilities are already in place, he said.
"We have the airport and the ski lodges that have already hosted world-class ski races," he said. "The new home for the Utah Jazz will be home for ice skating and hockey. Calgary only had the facility for the opening ceremonies and had to build most of the rest. The city in Japan that is competing with Salt Lake for '98 doesn't have an airport or a four-lane highway."
Barber said he believes Utah's image would improve and that tourism would increase as a result of hosting the Olympics. He said the U.S. Olympic Committee is always looking for places for athletes to train, particularly for winter sports.
"I think we could be sending a message that Utah has been chosen to be the winter sports capital of the United States," he said.