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WILL UTAHNS, BIATHLETES SOON RUB SHOULDERS?

You probably can't see yourself soaring off a ski jump or roaring down a bob-sled and luge track even though your tax dollars are paying for the construction of those facilities.

You may, however, be able to work out alongside Olympic-class athletes at one of the facilities at the nearly $30 million winter sports park under construction in Bear Hollow near Park City.State officials are considering adding a 6-mile-long, paved cross-country skiing and biathlon track to the sports park that could be used for hiking, mountain biking or even just strolling in warm weather.

The Utah Sports Authority formed a task force to figure out how to get the more than $1 million track connecting the winter sports park to Park City built by next winter.

Money may be the biggest problem. The authority, responsible for spending some $56 million on winter sports facilities that will be used if Salt Lake City hosts the 2002 Winter Games, has only $300,000 budgeted for the track.

Concern over costs has already led the authority to ask the Utah National Guard for help with construction. The Guard does accept some non-profit proj-ects but hasn't decided yet whether to add this to its list.

Location is another issue. Salt Lake City's unsuccessful bid for the 1998 Winter Games called for a $300,000 temporary track at the Mountain Dell golf course for the cross-country and biathlon events.

The Mountain Dell site was selected because it meets the elevation requirements for Olympic competition. The winter sports park sits more than 1,000 feet too high.

An effort is under way to change the elevation requirements, which favor Scandinavian athletes who train closer to sea level than their competitors from other parts of the world.

Regardless of whether that effort is successful, the chairman of the authority, Randy Dryer, would like to see the tax dollars spent on the Park City track.

"This benefits our winter sports park. Mountain Dell doesn't," Dryer said. The track, along with ice rinks planned for Ogden, Provo and the Salt Lake area, are likely to be the only state-funded facilities actually used by the general public.

The hope is that the public will be willing to pay to use those facilities as well as pay to see ski jumpers, bobsledders and other professional athletes train at the winter sports park.

The money raised from spectators and participants is needed to offset the operation and maintenance of all of the facilities if Salt Lake City is not awarded the 2002 Winter Games by the International Olympic Committee in 1995.

If Salt Lake City does get the Games, revenues generated from the sale of television rights and advertising contracts could be used to build a temporary cross-country and biathlon track at Mountain Dell for the Olympics, if needed.

While the state needs revenue from the general public to keep the facilities in the black, Salt Lake City's Olympic bid is dependent on the support of athletes.

Salt Lake City won the endorsement of the U.S. Olympic Committee for both the 1998 and 2002 Winter Games based on the promise of training facilities for U.S. athletes even if the city never hosts an Olympics.

Cross-country skiers are excited about the prospect of having a permanent training and competition facility in the state, which is home to the U.S. Ski Team and the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team.

"It'd be the best thing that's happened to cross-country skiing in Utah ever," said Charlie Sturgis, owner of White Pine Touring Co., the state's only cross-country ski service.

This past winter, the company cut a cross-country skiing track in the snow between Park City's golf course and newly purchased Osguthorpe barn. The barn has been proposed as the starting point of the new track.

Thousands of skiers, nearly all from out of state, paid to use the track. While members of the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team have skied there, they do their more serious training out of state and even out of the country.

Alan Ashley, cross-country program director for U.S. Skiing, said athletes could train year-round on the paved track by trading their skis for wheeled "roller skis" once the snow melts.

Supporters of the proposed track said having an Olympic-class facility available to the general public would help interest children in the sport and ensure a broader pool of talent for future U.S. teams.