PROVO — An attorney for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee says a financially strapped Utah County developer tried to charge the Olympic organization more money than is specified in a contract to use his land.
SLOC attorney Justin Toth told the Deseret News that managers of Gary Brinton's Seven Peaks Water Park said they would "lock out" Olympic workers unless the organizing committee paid a $350,000 "rental fee" for the park's grounds and parking lot, which is adjacent to Provo's Peaks Ice Arena, Utah County's only Olympic venue.
SLOC documents show a cost for the use of the land was established in 1998. SLOC signed an agreement in January 1998 with Seven Peaks Management Co. and local government leaders, who oversee the taxpayer-supported ice sheet, to lease the water park for $5.9 million. Brinton purchased the property in 1999.
Toth said requests for more money — in addition to threats that Olympic workers would not be allowed on the property unless the fee was paid — have been made for several months.
"It's sort of been an on-and-off relationship with them," Toth said in a telephone interview.
And in a letter sent Oct. 25 to SLOC, a manager of the water park told SLOC to place a $500,000 cash bond "in escrow for facility restoration and general liability" before Olympic organizers could use the grounds.
The letter also said SLOC must pay for the water park's restoration "no later than May 1, 2002."
If the park is not restored by that date, SLOC would be given "a late charge of $15,000 (per) day, the average revenue for the water park," according to the letter.
Brinton's attorney, Charles Hanna, counters that Brinton didn't see a cent of the $5.9 million rent payment made to the Seven Peaks Management Co. and the Ice Sheet Authority when he purchased the amusement park in 1999.
Hanna said Brinton didn't try to strong-arm SLOC into paying more money. "We requested a fee for the use of our facilities, we were told no and the matter ended," Hanna wrote in a letter to the Deseret News.
The attempt to obtain money from SLOC for the use of the property may stem from Brinton's legal troubles, according to letters sent to SLOC.
Several banks claim in court documents that Brinton owes them millions of dollars in default loans.
The largest claim is made by Wells Fargo Bank, which alleges in a 4th District Court lawsuit that Brinton used a complex plan to obtain $47 million in loans.
For his part, Brinton has sued Wells Fargo, claiming he was duped by bank officials into thinking the process was legal.
Key Bank and Central Bank also have claimed that Brinton defaulted on millions more in loans. And dozens of subcontractors and business vendors are claiming hundreds of thousands of dollars more in unpaid services.
According to letters sent to SLOC in November and December, Hanna says Brinton's financial woes may have caused him to review the agreement with SLOC.
"The problem in a nutshell is that none of this money was passed down" to Brinton's company "when it purchased the Seven Peaks Water Park," Hanna wrote.
He said default loans from Central Bank put the water park into foreclosure. Power to the facility also was shut off.
Plus, Hanna said, Brinton may file Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
"One of the options for Seven Peaks, if it in fact files a bankruptcy, will be to terminate the contract with the SLOC because it simply does not have the resources to perform said contract," Hanna wrote.
He continued the letter by inviting SLOC to "negotiate a payment" for use of the park. Another payment, he said, would guarantee use of the park even if Brinton filed bankruptcy.
Toth said SLOC saw that as a threat on Brinton's part to throw a monkey wrench into the operations for the Olympic hockey events.
"We've cooperated fully with them," Brinton said in a brief telephone interview Wednesday. "They've had exclusive use for several weeks now."
Hanna, who denied that managers at the park made any threats to block access to the park, said anyone can drive by the water park and see that Olympic staff have taken over the facility as agreed to in the venue contract.