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If Salt Lake City is awarded the 2002 Winter Games next June, bid officials still have about a year to negotiate a contract for athlete housing and other Olympic facilities at the University of Utah.

Members of the International Olympic Committee Evaluation Commission were told last week the U. is committed to investing as much as $56 million in athlete housing, additional seating at Rice Stadium and possibly an ice arena.Yet there is no binding contract between the U. and the Salt Lake Olympic Bid Committee, other than a five-page letter of understanding dated June 21, 1994, that prom-ises both parties agree to negotiate in good faith.

That letter, written by U. President Arthur K. Smith and signed by Salt Lake Olympic Bid Committee President Tom Welch, gives both parties an out if they can't reach agreement by Nov. 1, 1996.

"We don't foresee that happening," Smith said. "It's a wonderful opportunity for the University of Utah . . . We're committed to going forward if Salt Lake City receives the bid."

Even though other options for athlete housing have been discussed, including building apartments in downtown Salt Lake that later would rented to low-income residents, Welch has said the bid committee intends to stick with the U. site.

Indeed, bid documents submitted to the IOC describe the Olympic Village as being located in the center of the U. campus, utilizing both existing dorms and new apartments.

The evaluation commission members expressed concern about where the money to pay for all this would come from and later asked U. officials to spell out in writing what the campus intended to provide.

Salt Lake was the first stop for the evaluation commission, whose reports on each of the nine cities bidding for the 2002 Winter Games will be used by the IOC to narrow the list of candidates to four in January.

The response from the U. to the evaluation commission states that the campus "will provide a state-of-the-art Olympic Village" built to IOC specifications, as well as food service facilities within a new, secured area.

The letter does not mention how the project would be paid for, even though that was the focus of the committee's concern during a visit to the U. campus. Smith said they didn't ask for any written assurance about funding.

The U. president had told the evaluation commission that while he could not yet identify the source of funding, he could guarantee the campus would come up with its share.

The bid committee is proposing some $70 million be spent on housing for athletes and their support staffs. Only $28 million, however, would come from Winter Games revenues.

It would be up to the U. to raise the remaining $42 million, at least in part through issuing revenue bonds that would be repaid with student dorm fees collected after the Olympic Village is converted into student housing.

Smith said he does not want to rule out the possibility of going to the Legislature for funds to help cover the costs of the Olympic Village, meaning taxpayers could be asked to contribute more toward the Winter Games.

What the evaluation commission wanted to include as part of its written record, Smith said, was "written assurance we would provide them with an Olympic Village."

The letter did not address two other Olympic projects at the U., an expansion of Rice Stadium for opening and closing ceremonies and an 8,500-seat ice arena for ice hockey and short-track speed skating competitions.

All of these Olympic projects are covered by the letter of understanding between the U. and the bid committee, which states "no state educational funds, student fees, and/or tuition shall be used to support the Games."

The bid committee's contribution to the three projects - $28 million for the Olympic Village, $8 million for Rice Stadium and $15 million for the ice arena - are described as rental payments.

The amounts are also described as "estimates only at the time and are subject to change as plans become more definitive." Negotiations are to begin after the U.'s academic strategic plan is completed in December 1995 - if Salt Lake City is awarded the 2002 Winter Games.