What could Utah accomplish in time for a 2034 Winter Olympics?

The state and local officials who serve on the Unified Economic Opportunity Commission chaired by Gov. Spencer Cox offered plenty of ideas Monday during what was billed as “Olympics visioning” session during a meeting at the Capitol.

Salt Lake City has already been named the International Olympic Committee’s preferred host for the 2034 Winter Games, with a final vote expected to be held in Paris on July 24, celebrated in Utah as Pioneer Day.

Cox, who would sign the host agreement with the IOC on behalf of the state, said bringing another Olympics to Utah after first hosting in 2002 could serve as a catalyst for determining where best to invest tax dollars at all levels of government.

“We obviously want to maintain our quality of life while focusing on economic growth and prosperity. I think that goes without saying,” the governor said, adding at the end of the meeting, “We have this just extra motivation that we need to stay relevant and get this right.”

What would another Olympics mean for transportation, other issues in Utah?

Transportation projects were mentioned multiple times. Utah House Speaker Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, said for the 2002 Winter Games, “we came together and got ahead of it,” expanding I-15 and opening the Utah Transit Authority’s initial TRAX light rail lines.

“We need to identify what that looks like today, working toward getting that done which will have a huge benefit well after the Olympics,” Schultz said, noting while Utah “has done a great job at meeting our needs for transportation, (it’s) certainly not perfect. There are some areas where we are a little bit behind.”

Will the Winter Olympics be rotated between Salt Lake City and other permanent locations?

Carlos Braceras, the executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation, said another Olympics can focus Utahns on what’s best for the state in the long run.

“We’re not going to build anything for the Olympics,” Braceras said. “But we want to use the Olympics as a motivator to try to make those big decisions that help us in the next 10, 20, 50 years from now to do those big things.”

For 2034, he pictures “a transportation system where people can go where they want, when they want and how they want, and do so safely. So that’s a robust transit system. We have some great transit projects in the works right now,” including double-tracking for FrontRunner commuter rail.

“I don’t think there’s a more important transportation project for the Olympics than finishing that FrontRunner. Right now, we’re aiming for ‘29, ‘30 as a deadline. But it’s going to take a lot to get there,” the UDOT boss said, noting there are “critical” environmental issues yet to be resolved.

Another type of transport utilizing vertical take-off and landing technology was also pitched.

Vertiports. As we think about drone technology, that is the future. It is knocking on our door,” said Ryan Starks, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity. “I think by 2034, Utah can really stake its claim as a vertiport and drone delivery hub of the United States.”

Other suggestions from the state’s top economic development official? Add four more state parks in the coming decade, giving Utah a total of 50 with “more space for visitors,” and extending a TRAX line between the Daybreak community and the Point of the Mountain development.

Jonathan Freedman, World Trade Center Utah president and CEO, wants to use an Olympics to recruit Fortune 500 companies to the state since “they’re coming here anyway” to attend the Winter Games.

Using the Olympics to address mental health issues in the state, especially among youth, also came up.

Here’s what Mitt Romney and other leaders say Utah needs to do ahead of a 2034 Olympics

Box Elder County Commissioner Lee Perry said the mental health concerns raised by Olympians like Simone Biles and Michael Phelps are an opening to helping Utahns understand “not only what it takes to be healthy physically but what it takes to be healthy mentally.”

Perry said he hopes athletes can share the message here “that it’s OK to talk to somebody. It’s OK to get help. That’s just something we really ought to double down on and say 2034 is going to be a year we’re going to really try to progress, making sure ... it’s not a stigma if something bothers you.”

How would Utah pay for big projects over the 10 years before another Olympics?

Paying for the projects timed to another Olympics could be more difficult this time around,

“Knowing that this is 10 years into the future and we benefited a lot in the past Olympics with federal funding opportunities for growth and infrastructure and other things like that, it may not be there in the future,” said Sophia DiCaro, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget.

That means “whatever we can do proactively to help us be more resilient in the next 10 years is going to be really critical,” she said, suggesting lawmakers create a funding mechanism to set aside money for infrastructure for 2034.


“I think it will be more important over the next 10 year period to do something now, to start that process now,” DiCaro said. Her idea was endorsed by Cox.

It’s similar to one raised by Utah Sen. Mitt Romney at an April panel discussion about making another Olympics a generational success, hosted by the Kem C. Gardner Public Policy Institute at the University of Utah with the Deseret News and the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics.

Romney proposed lobbying Congress to start setting aside federal funds annually to cover Olympic security and transportation costs traditionally paid for by Washington, D.C., for both another Winter Games in Utah and the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles.

“Ten years from now, our country is likely to be facing some very tough financial times. We’re already in that circumstance with a lot of people very angry about how much is being spent,” the senator said. If Utah waits too long to asks for funds “that may not be a welcome request and it may not be granted.”

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.