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No escaping Oly traffic, delays

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Utah business types enjoying receptions and other Olympics activities at fenced-in downtown Salt Lake City areas won't be immune from the security and transportation troubles everyone else will face.

Travel and parking restrictions and security measures will be cumbersome for Utah businesspeople trying to get to the Devereaux Mansion, the site of receptions and other casual entertainment and networking activities, the Board of Business and Economic Development was told Friday.

Vaughn Walsh, internal auditor for the Department of Community and Economic Development, suggested that people accessing the fenced-in Olympic Square, which includes the mansion, be prepared to do some walking, carpooling and using Utah Transit Authority park-and-ride services.

He also suggested that, despite long waits, traffic snarls and other distractions brought on by the Games, people should have fun.

"I keep telling people that it's like having a big party in your living room. You'll enjoy it if you don't spend all your time in another room," Walsh said. "We're a little crazy now, . . . but once we get going, it will be a blast."

The department is involved in several reception- and hosting-related activities during the Games as a springboard for possible future economic development in Utah. Among the activities are events at the Devereaux Mansion, which has been made available for participating business "partners" to entertain clients.

But getting there won't be easy. Walsh suggested using parking lots west of downtown, at Utah Power and the Utah State Fairpark, at least two hours before any downtown events. Even then, drop-off points will require some walking, as will having certain TRAX stops closed during the Games.

"If anybody thinks they're not walking, I'm sorry. We'll all be doing some walking," Walsh said.

As for TRAX, the closest stop in use during the Games will be three-fourths of a mile away from the Devereaux Mansion, which is just a stone's throw from the usual Delta Center TRAX stop that will be out of service during the Games.

Security will be tight for people entering the Olympic Square. Walsh and Shari Kille, an Olympics volunteer and director of planning for the department, said entrants must go through the "mag and bag" procedure ? passing through magnetometers and having bags checks.

Only small bags will be allowed, and all of their zippers and pockets will be opened and checked. Cameras will be pointed to the ground to click a photo. Electronic devices must be turned on to validate their legitimacy. Blankets will be checked, and flags must be 3-by-5 feet or smaller.

"The less stuff you bring in, the quicker you go through," Kille said. "They'll be really sticky about it, for your own benefit."

Robert Fuehr, director of the Division of Business and Economic Development, tried to put the hassles into perspective. People at previous Olympics sites said long walks and transportation congestion were typical for the Games.

"This is, believe it or not, not as bad as it sounds," he said of the Utah expectations. "Salt Lake City is the largest city to host a Winter Olympics, and this is a great step up from what normal conditions are."

Fuehr told the board that the division's Olympics preparations are going well. "I'm looking forward, after this is over, to the stories of how much fun we had," he said.

E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com