Kearns residents pleaded with Salt Lake County commissioners to reconsider a proposal to place the state's Olympic speed-skating oval in the renovated Salt Palace at a public hearing Wednesday night.
It's up to the Utah Sports Authority to choose between the Salt Palace and the site pitched by Kearns, at the Oquirrh Park Fitness Center, for the project which will receive at least $3.7 million in state funding.The sports authority is scheduled to decide Oct. 5.
Last month, Salt Lake City withdrew its controversial Block 49 site across from Pioneer Park after the county came up with the idea for adding the ice oval to the new convention area planned for the Salt Palace.
The city's site had been the top pick of the sports authority, with the Oquirrh Park site named as an alternative. The sports authority had been negotiating a contract with the city when the site was withdrawn.
Kearns residents told county commissioners Wednesday night their community needed the speed-skating oval to meet the ever-growing demand for recreation facilities.
"Why can't unincorporated Salt Lake County have the same benefits as city residents," asked Bruce Golson, a member of the Kearns Town Council. Golson said an oval in Kearns would be used year-round for a variety of sports.
The county's proposal calls for the oval to be in use just three months a year, during the winter months when conventions are usually not scheduled because skiers are already filling area hotels.
Salt Lake County Commissioner Jim Bradley said putting the oval in the Salt Palace, where it would be covered at a lower cost than a free-standing facility, was a better deal for taxpayers.
The cost of a covered oval in the Salt Palace is about $9.5 million compared to $15 million or more for an outdoor oval that would be covered only if Salt Lake City is awarded the Olympics in 1995.
Although the Salt Palace site would cost more money initially, Bradley said the county proposal would free up more Olympic revenues for use by Kearns and other communities later.
"Don't saddle your community with a speed-skating oval," Bradley said, telling the Kearns residents that if they were patient, they would end up with money for more desirable recreational facilities.
Several members of area community councils agreed with Bradley that the cost savings made the Salt Palace proposal the best choice, especially if the facility is not self-supporting.