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Olympic Park logs rise in summer visitors

BEAR HOLLOW — More people visited the Utah Olympic Park over the summer, thanks to new attractions including an alpine slide, but revenues still fell short of projections.

Revenues did climb 36 percent over the same period last year, but leaders of the organization that operates the former 2002 Winter Games facilities, the Utah Athletic Foundation, had budgeted a 50 percent increase.

Still, the "Gravity Zone" attractions helped bring in more than $1.2 million between Memorial Day and Labor Day, up from $889,000 last year. The number of visitors jumped more than a quarter, from just over 55,000 to more than 69,000.

The park would have done better if the "Quicksilver Autoboggan" — the alpine slide —had been completed as planned earlier in the season. Instead, the opening was delayed until Sept. 2.

"That's where the shortfall was," Fraser Bullock, the foundation's chairman, said. Overall, though, Bullock said the foundation was "thrilled" with the turnout. "What we've tried to create here is an environment where people can bring their families and get involved," he said.

The shortfall was offset by cutbacks in other spending, according to foundation president John Bennion. He said, for example, that some positions at the facility were allowed to remain vacant.

The largely private foundation took over the operation of the state's major Olympic facilities from the Salt Lake Organizing Committee after the Games. In addition to the sports park, with its ski jumps and bobsled track, the foundation operates the speedskating oval in Kearns.

The facilities are funded through a $75 million endowment from the organizing committee, but that doesn't generate enough revenue annually to cover operating costs. Attractions like those in "Gravity Zone" are supposed to help close the gap.

Some $4 million was spent on the latest attractions. The zipline, which opened mid-season last year, starts at the top of the K-120 ski jump and sends riders down a 435-foot vertical drop at speeds of up to 55 mph for $22.

Summer bobsled rides continue to be offered on the concrete track for $65 a person, as well as aerial bungee jumping and freestyle shows featuring skiers and snowboarders jumping into the training pool.

Bennion said that when the winter season begins, the biggest variable in revenues will continue to be the public programs, especially the public bobsled rides. Ice is expected to be on the park's track by Nov. 1.

Athletes also use the facilities for training and competition, although a World Cup bobsled and skeleton event scheduled at the track was canceled cancelled recently. Bennion said there was a dispute over extra training runs and the event was moved to Calgary, Canada.