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New role for sports authority

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The state agency responsible for building $59 million in Olympic facilities may be taking on a new role with the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.

Tuesday, members of the Utah Sports Authority will decide whether to accept a $925,000 federal grant on behalf of SLOC for the 2002 Paralympic Games, the international competition for disabled athletes that will be held after the 2002 Winter Games.

It would be the first time the state agency set up to build the bobsled, luge and skeleton track and ski jumps near Park City as well as other winter sports facilities along the Wasatch Front has become involved in Games operations.

"This is consistent with our mission to promote amateur athletics," said Randy Dryer, sports authority chairman. "We're already set up to handle this. We can do it a lot more efficiently."

SLOC is not set up to directly receive federal grants, which require specialized accounting. Other federal grants awarded to help cover expenses associated with the Games have been made to the Utah Department of Transportation, for example.

This grant, from the U.S. Department of Education, would be used to cover the cost of publications for the Paralympics as well as trash and snow removal during the event, scheduled for March 7-16, 2002.

Since there is no single state agency that handles those functions, SLOC decided to turn to the sports authority for help. "It's a state entity that's involved with sports activities," said Cindy Gillespie, vice president of federal relations for the organizing committee.

Gillespie said organizers may ask the sports authority to handle more federal grants in the future. This grant, which was approved by Congress in July, must be drawn down by September.

The sports authority would use part of the money to pay a state employee to administer the grant, likely someone in the Utah Department of Community and Economic Development, Dryer said.

The sports authority is slated to go out of business in 2003, having spent nearly all of the $59 million in sales taxes set aside over the past 10 years for construction of winter sports facilities.

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