Despite a shortfall in the 1992 budget, the Weber County Commission has voted unanimously to fund $2 million toward construction of an Olympic ice rink at Weber State University.
That might leave the commission scrambling to make departmental cuts to balance a budget that's $1 million in the hole.The money to fund the county's portion of the $5.9 million rink project will come from a newly imposed restaurant tax expected to bring in $800,000 a year.
Money from that tax also will be used to fund a proposed downtown conference center. The allocation for the ice rink will not endanger the downtown project, said Lowell Peterson, chairman of the downtown conference center executive committee.
County Commissioner Spencer Stokes said it will take some time to raise the $6 million to $7 million for the conference center and the county's payments to the Utah Sports Authority for the ice rink "will be finished by the time they start on the conference center."
Last week, several county officials urged the commission to consider using this year's restaurant tax revenue to pay the more than $700,000 owed on the Weber County Fairgrounds, money that would have come from the general fund. The general fund money could then be used to help eliminate the general budget shortfall, a result of over-anticipated revenues in several areas and a budgeting error.
As for the ice rink, the sports authority will provide the additional $3 million and the rest of the money needed to pay for it will come from private donations and fund raising.
Already $625,000 has been raised, said Max Thompson, chairman of Weber County People for Jobs, Opportunity and the Olympics. "We've spent a long time getting to this point and we're excited," Thompson said. "This facility makes sense."
Plans for the rink, which could hold 2,000 spectators and would be used for preliminary ice events during the 2002 Winter Olympics, if Salt Lake City wins the bid, were completed Wednesday, Thompson said.
He said the project soon will be available for bid, and ground-breaking and excavation on the rink could start within 10 days, with construction starting by the end of the year.