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Provo hunkers down for Games

Many unsure of what Olympics will bring to city

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PROVO — Like the finish line at the end of a downhill slope, as the first day of the Olympic Winter Games looms ever closer, many businesses in Provo find themselves thrust into a daunting situation.

Some businesses close to the Peaks Ice Arena, such as restaurants, have scheduled for extra shifts for their employees, while non-service businesses are scrambling just to find ways to get their employees to work.

"I think we're going to be okay, but I just don't know," said a nervous Janice Chamberlain. Chamberlain, who owns Security Title & Abstract Company on Center Street in Provo, said the location of her business puts her smack in the middle of Utah County's Olympic action.

Luckily, Chamberlain said, she has reserved parking in back for her employees. "I just don't know where our customers are going to park," she said. Chamberlain, like many businesses, plans to stay open during the Games.

Officials who run the state government building on Center Street in downtown Provo, said they also plan to be open during the Games.

State Facility Coordinator Dwight Palmer said the building, which houses a variety of state departments including human services, workforce services, tax commission, motor vehicles, health and adult probation and parole, will be open from 6 a.m. until 5 p.m.

He said some agencies will essentially close a 2 p.m., leaving a small skeleton crew to manage things through the 5 p.m. official closing. Palmer said the facility houses some 450 state employees.

The rear parking terrace, which the state jointly owns with Utah County, will be reserved for state and county employees only until 5 p.m. After that, the terrace may be used for Olympic event parking.

The largest employer adjacent to the Olympic venue is the Utah State Hospital. With 24-hour operations and some 750 employees, hospital officials said they have been planning for this for more than a year.

"We actually have them using part of our property to park buses and VIP cars," said hospital assistant superintendant Dennis Cullimore. "They have fenced off the parking lot just east of us."

To compensate, Cullimore said the hospital has secured an old orchard where employees will be able to park — although they will have to walk about a block to get to the facility.

Security is also tight. "Our people will have to come through two police checks just to get to work," Cullimore said. Hospital officials have been negotiating with SLOC to provide a special police gate just for employees.

"We've worked with vendors and have issued them vendors passes and asked them to make deliveries early in the morning, since we know that most of the events begin after 2 p.m.," said Russ Armstrong, director of support services for the hospital.

Other businesses are counting on Olympic-goers bringing their appetites.

Nicole Halvorsen, manager of Guru's restaurant on Center Street, said she plans to add two extra people per shift. "We're staying open an extra hour on weekdays," Halvorsen said. But being in the center of all the activity is not necessarily good for business. "Parking is horrible as it is right now. I can't even imagine" next week, Halvorsen said.

"We're trying to be flexible because we really don't know what to expect," said Dan Waters, owner of Hogi Yogi & Teriyaki Stix on 900 East — just two blocks from the ice arena. Waters said he has told his staff to expect long shifts. "Most of them, luckily, are students and live close by and usually walk to work," Waters said.

But whether it's a government agency or private business, all said they are excited for this once-in-a-lifetime event.

"It'll be an interesting three weeks, but I think it will be all right," Cullimore said.

E-mail: gfattah@desnews.com