KEARNS — The newest addition to the site of the Utah Olympic Oval and Kearns Oquirrh Park Fitness Center connects the two buildings — both literally and figuratively.
The Kearns Athlete Training and Element Event Center will be U.S. Speedskating's new home as well as a community gathering place, said Rep.-elect Ben McAdams, D-Utah, the outgoing Salt Lake County mayor.
"It's a place where athletes from across the world will come to train and compete. But it's also going to be accessible to the residents of Kearns and Salt Lake County to come and enjoy these facilities," McAdams said Monday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. "And hopefully it will be a future Olympic venue."
McAdams said the addition better integrates the past Olympic facility into the community.
In addition to a facility for about 60 speedskaters who train at the oval year-round, the new center includes additional space belonging to the existing community fitness center for expansion of its operations, as well as public areas like conference rooms, large multipurpose rooms and a second-story bridge that leads to the oval.
Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation CEO Colin Hilton added that the oval has long provided opportunities for the public to skate, play hockey and even learn curling.
Hilton called the new center "a connector building," which, he said, "is doing just that — building bridges between our organizations. … It really has been an effort of collaboration, partnerships and an ability to see something bigger than the sum of its parts."
Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, said it felt surreal to him to stand in the completed building — he said Kearns has come a long way since 2001, when he assumed his position representing the "at-risk" community.
After the 2002 Winter Games, Hutchings added, lawmakers' big question was how they would finance and carry out demolishing the oval.
But, he said, thanks to a community effort led by Hinton and the Olympic Legacy Foundation, they ensured that it would not only remain standing, but be turned into an asset for the community.
"We've got it financed pretty much into perpetuity," he said, "and it will be here for us, and the next generation, and the next generation."
Hinton added that the oval is currently four times busier than it was immediately after the 2002 Olympics.
"That's because we are ingrained," he said, "and we are collaborative with our community partners to make this a special place."
Hinton also believes the new building may help Utah's bid to host a future Winter Games — both because of its physical facilities and the effort to build them.
"It's about partnerships and collaboration," he said, "and that's what this community does really well."
The multiorganization project cost a total of $13.3 million, Hinton said: $5 million from Salt Lake County, $3 million from the state, $2.6 million from the Kearns Oquirrh Park Fitness District, $1.7 million from the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation and $1 million from U.S. Speedskating.