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‘Olympic venue’ status requested for City Hall area

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As part of a revamped Olympic Security plan, Salt Lake City could have a new Olympic venue — the City-County Building, home to Mayor Rocky Anderson's office and other city departments.

In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Salt Lake City leaders have asked that the building and surrounding Washington Square, where a 17-day Olympic festival is planned, be made an official Olympic venue with tighter security, Salt Lake Olympic Planner John Sittner said.

"This is a very prominent facility . . . with valuable assets," he said.

The Salt Lake Organizing Committee, the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command, bipartisan congressional leaders, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Secret Service will consider the city's request at a Washington, D.C., meeting next week.

If the building and surrounding Washington Square gains official venue status security would be greatly enhanced. The area would have access to private SLOC security guards as well as Secret Service agents, Sittner said.

The building and square, like other official nonsports venues, would be surrounded by a chain-link fence and another interior fence with magnetometer and bag checks for everyone. Additionally, building employees will likely need special credentials to gain entrance, said Robert Flowers, Utah public safety commissioner and UOPSC head.

Some 15,000 people are expected to come through Washington Square and the downtown festival corridors on 300 South and on Main Street each day of the Games. At any particular time, 5,000 people will be on the square, Sittner predicts.

Even without official venue status, the festival is slated to have a considerable security presence.

"We will have significantly greater security and manpower at the City-County Building. We've already contracted for additional security," Sittner said, adding that Salt Lake police officers, guards hired from local security companies and others hired by United Concerts, the downtown festival coordinator, will patrol the square.

SLOC chief operating officer Fraser Bullock said he wasn't sure how, or if, organizers could make the building and Washington Square an official Olympic venue at this stage.

However, the kind of security assistance the city is asking for could be accomplished without making the area an official venue, he said.

"It's not critical if it's an official Olympic venue," Bullock said. "The important thing is that we work together to provide adequate security."

Contributing: Derek Jensen

E-mail: bsnyder@desnews.com; durbani@desnews.com