When it was announced last year, the plan to sell Utah's new Winter Olympics sports facilities to the private Salt Lake Olympic Bid Committee seemed a good idea.
The $59 million sales price guaranteed taxpayers would recover the money they are paying for the facilities near Park city and I-80. In addition, the bid committee was to set aside $40 million from Olympic revenues as an endowment to operate the facilities after the Olympics.But in recent days Deseret News reporter Lisa Riley Roche has uncovered information that calls into question whether the state was fully informed about the bid committee's plans-- and whether taxpayers will get their money's worth.
State officials originally said the land was to be used only for Olympic facilities. However, a written agreement obtained by the Deseret News says otherwise. It allows for hotels, resorts, restaurants, office buildings and a variety of other facilities.
If the committee wants to use the land for these other purposes as well, it may be worth much more than $59 million. The possibility of these added facilities represents additional considerations that should be included in the sales price.
State lawmakers, who approved the sales price earlier this year, should revisit the issue. Apparently, state officials and members of the bid committee have had trouble communicating. The time has come to sit down and begin talking candidly about the future of a valuable state asset.
Other problems have surfaced as well. Federal investigators are examining whether the use of $2 million in federal funds to build a road to the Olympic facilities was legal. The road apparently was built as part of a deal to acquire 300 more acres for the Olympic park from the developer of a nearby subdivision.
The plan to sell the facilities still is a good one. It provides a way for the state to recoup its investment, and it keeps the state from having to pay more if the 2002 Games come here. The added endowment guarantees the facilities won't be lost to rust and decay after the games are over.
But the state and the bid committee need to present a united and enthusiastic front to International Olympic Committee members, who next year will choose a city to host the 2002 games. They can't afford needless controversies, and they can't afford to do anything that may cast doubts on their judgment and goodwill.
The sale of the Olympic facilities won't happen unless the state wins the 2002 bid. That means lawmakers, state officials and members of the bid committee have some time to work out differences and to make sure the public is paid a proper amount for the asset it is selling.
They should do so quickly.