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PROVO, COUNTY MAY TEAM UP FOR ICE SHEET

Utah County and Provo officials believe their chances of getting a seat on the Olympic bandwagon are better if the two entities are working together.

An interlocal agreement drafted by the county attorney's office says the city and county will participate equally in studying, developing and promoting Olympic facilities. County commissioners approved the agreement Wednesday, and the pact must now go before the Provo City Council.In a nutshell, rather than lobbying for Olympic participation and promoting a proposed practice ice sheet separately, the agreement means the two entities will pool resources and efforts. For several years, Provo was the driving force behind plans for a practice ice sheet in Utah Valley, but the two entities recently agreed to pitch in $2 million each to help construct the ice sheet near East Bay Golf Course.

The real motive behind the agreement is to develop an organized and coordinated push to land a venue for the 2002 Winter Games in Utah County. The city already has initiated preliminary work on a proposal to build a cross-country and biathlon facility near the mouth of Provo Canyon. Olympic officials have hinted that cross-country venues now planned for Mountain Dell Golf Course might be subject to change.

The county and city recognize that Utah Valley's only chance of landing a venue depends on having a professional and organized proposal ready to present to the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee. The interlocal agreement says tourism tax revenues and possibly as much as $2,500 a month from the city and county for six months will be spent to study, develop and promote Olympic facilities in the valley.

Some of the money might be spent to complete a feasibility study and hire a professional public relations firm. Also, an outside consultant might be hired with some expertise in designing an Olympic-quality facility and in presenting a proposal to Olympic organizers.

While Provo officials are supportive of the concept, none participated in drafting the agreement, and the city has made no commitment on funding. But city officials plan to discuss the agreement in an upcoming City Council meeting.

"I think it's important that we carefully decide what we have to offer the Olympics and go forward and see whether we want to be a player in this thing," said Lewis Billings, acting chief executive officer of Provo.

Under the agreement, some of the funds could also be spent to promote the tourism value of the planned ice sheet. Officials plan to contact winter amateur athletic organizations from around the world and promote the Provo ice sheet as a competition site.

"Rather than wait for the Olympics to get here, we think it's better to begin working on things now," said Michael Mack, executive director of the Utah Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau.

This interlocal agreement has nothing to do with each party's role in constructing, financing and managing the ice sheet. Once all funding for the ice sheet is in place, a separate interlocal agreement will be negotiated.

Work on the ice sheet won't begin until the Olympic Organizing Committee gives the county and city a letter committing $3 million to the project. The city and county will then issue revenue bonds and begin design work on the facility.