After months of Ogden and Provo fighting for the right to an Olympic speed-skating oval, Salt Lake City now wants it - kind of.
In a meeting Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Palmer DePaulis, parks department officials and westside Councilman Ron Whitehead agreed that the city will send a letter to the Utah Division of Facilities Construction and Management. It will explain that if Ogden's bid for the speed-skating rink is found unacceptable, the division and ultimately the Utah Sports Authority board should consider the Utah State Fairpark as an alternate.DePaulis, who has long supported Ogden's bid for the speed-skating venue, said he didn't want to start up "warfare" with angry Ogdenites who may think Salt Lake City is making a last-minute attempt to steal their Olympic glory.
DePaulis said he wanted to balance political concerns with Whitehead's initiative. The councilman said that he wants the ice rink as an economic shot in the arm for the westside neighborhoods he represents.
Jackie Nokes, director of Utah State Division of Exhibitions, said that State Fair officials are not involved in the bid and the Legislature would have to approve any use of the land.
"We can't stop somebody from proposing a site," she said.
Whitehead explained that the Fairpark is one of the few places in the city that there would be space for the speed-skating oval. The state is requiring a site at least 750 feet by 350 feet on about 15 acres.
Whitehead said that the arena could also be used for equestrian events, concerts and a site for ice hockey. However, Nokes isn't sure the site could accommodate concerts and said that the Fairpark isn't in the business of competing for large concerts anyway. She said she would welcome an enclosed horse arena.
Proponents of the Ogden speed-skating oval said they doubt whether Salt Lake City would have enough time to prepare a detailed proposal for a speed-skating oval. They also question whether such a proposal would have public support.
"I wonder if they would have the mandatory community support behind them in this effort. Personally I would be disappointed if Salt Lake City moved ahead with this proposal," said Max Thompson, representative of Weber County People for Jobs, Opportunity and Olympics.
Whitehead said he already has a proposal ready, noting that the Fairpark was considered as an oval site during Salt Lake City's previous Winter Olympic bids.
With only a week and a half until a deadline for the proposals for an estimated $48.2 million worth of Winter Olympic facilities, some bids have had some rough going. The Utah Sports Authority, a board created by the Legislature, will receive proposals until June 15. After a selection process and tour of the sites, the board will announce the winning bids on July 10.
The current status of proposals is:
-Bountiful. The City Council gave approval to a bid for a practice ice sheet on May 16. The city believes the facility can be constructed for under the $3 million allotted by the Utah Sports Authority for the rink. It would be built adjacent to an existing rink and share icemaking equipment, said Neal Jenkins, Bountiful Parks and Recreation director.
-Logan. Logan officials have expressed interest in locating both the speed-skating oval and a practice ice sheet in their city. The speed-skating oval had been proposed for Utah State University campus.
-Ogden. The Ogden City Council will meet Thursday to consider a resolution supporting the construction of a speed-skating oval at Weber State College. Four sites are being considered for a practice rink. The preferred is on the Marshall White Center block in west Ogden.
-Orem. The city turned down a request to provide $3 million in back-up financing for a practice ice rink, but Kerry Romesburg, president of Utah Valley Community College, said they haven't given up.
"We are still exploring it. There is no question the action by Orem slowed us down, but that hasn't stopped us yet. We've met with the city representative and local legislators and decided move forward with the city turning in the proposal," he said.
-Provo. Marlo Jensen, a Provo city representative on the task force trying to bring the speed-skating oval to Seven Peaks Resort, said resort owner Vic Borcherds is still pursuing the facility.
-Salt Lake City. Along with its stand-offish attempt for the speed-skating oval, Parks and Recreation Director John Gust told Mayor Palmer DePaulis Tuesday that the city could build a practice ice sheet for $4.2 million next to the new Steiner Aquatics Center on Guardsman Way - $1.2 million more than budgeted by the Utah Sports Authority.
Gust said the city will also present a proposal that doesn't meet all of the Sports Authority board's stipulations. For example, the city hopes to negotiate joint management of the site. The Sports Authority has requested full ownership and control of all Olympic facilities.
-Summit County. Summit County officials are considering four sites for the Winter Sports Park, but county commissioners have said they favor a Bear Hollow site just off I-15 at Kimball's Junction because of opposition to other sites.
-Wasatch County. County Commissioner Pete Coleman said officials have decided that the county doesn't have enough money to provide water, sewer and other services to a proposed Snake Creek site near Midway. They are sending a letter to the Sports Authority saying that if the state is willing to help with improvements they would like to be considered.
Ice sheets. The state would provide $3 million for one practice rink for figure skating and ice hockey. The state would not provide funding for a second rink.
Speed-skating oval. Two football fields long, the oval would house long-distance skating. The estimated cost is $4.9 million.
Winter sports park. The park would be home to ski jumps and a bobsled-luge track.