No new baseball stadium or hockey arena needed for another Utah Olympics, IOC says

The Delta Center is seen in Salt Lake City on Feb. 23. The International Olympic Committee has said that facilities used during the 2002 Games, like the Delta Center, would also likely be used for a possible Olympics in 2034.

The Delta Center is seen in Salt Lake City on Feb. 23. The International Olympic Committee has said that facilities used during the 2002 Games, like the Delta Center, would also likely be used for a possible Olympics in 2034. (Marielle Scott, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — When the International Olympic Committee comes to Utah next month to inspect venues for a 2034 Winter Games, the possibility that Salt Lake City would get new multibillion-dollar baseball and hockey facilities if major league teams come to the state will no doubt be discussed.

But IOC officials have made it clear that they're focused on the Olympic facilities that are already in place in Utah from the 2002 Winter Games, spelling out that the proposed Major League Baseball stadium and National Hockey League arena should not be sold to taxpayers as needed for Salt Lake City to host another Winter Games.

"Let's not create the link between investment in these venues and their necessity for the Olympic Games," Christophe Dubi, the IOC's Olympic Games executive director, told reporters during a media briefing Monday about the upcoming visit, the latest step in the bid process now that Salt Lake City has been named the "preferred host" for 2034.

"At no point in time should those venues be conditional upon being part of the Games," Dubi said. "We don't want any of these venues to say, 'OK, now, we need to double up the MLB, the NHL, whatever purpose, because they're going to serve for the Games as well.' That needs to be very clear."

However, both Dubi and Jacqueline Barrett, the IOC's future Olympic Games hosts director, said the facilities that the Utah Legislature agreed to fund in the last days of this year's session, contingent on Salt Lake City getting the new major league teams, could end up being used in an Olympics should they be built.

"(If) another, better possibility becomes available, why not look at it? We would be silly not to look at it," Barrett said.

Under new standards adopted by the IOC to help control the cost of hosting an Olympics, she said the Switzerland-based organization comes "from a basis of sustainability. If it's there, we could use it." As for the possibility of new facilities, Barrett suggested "maybe we keep them in the back pocket and we see how things develop."

Of course, Salt Lake City first must be formally selected as the host of the 2034 Winter Games. After advancing Utah to the next stage of the new, less formal bid process late last year, the IOC's Future Host Commission is now putting together a recommendation for IOC leaders.

That recommendation, based in part on the inspection set for April 9-13, is set to be made in June to the IOC Executive Board. It's the IOC leaders serving on the Executive Board who must ask the full membership to formally elect Salt Lake City as the site of the 2034 Games, a vote expected to take place on July 24, celebrated as Pioneer Day in Utah.

Fraser Bullock, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games, said last month's massive bid submission to the IOC included "a robust, complete plan for all of the venues and all of the events," using the same competition sites and facilities as in 2002.

"I would say any new stadiums are not a 'must have' for the Games because we have a plan in place. But they would be a 'nice to have' to consider," Bullock said, adding, "we'll just tag along to whatever process happens. We'll just follow that, but they are not required to host the Games."

The bid leader has said a new baseball stadium proposed for what's been dubbed the Power District on the city's west side could be used during another Olympics for the nightly medals awards ceremonies held in a downtown lot in 2002, or even big air snowboarding competitions, first added for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

A new hockey arena downtown — or even a remodel of the Delta Center, home to the Utah Jazz, to accommodate both basketball and hockey — has been touted as a plus for another Olympics. The 2002 Winter Games' top-tier hockey matches were played in what's now the Maverick Center in West Valley City.

Bullock said "we'll touch on" the proposed new stadium and arena when the more than dozen IOC members and officials, including Dubi and Barrett, are in Utah, "but until they become more real, tangible, we're just going to leave those to the future."

Dubi described Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, the host of the 2028 Summer Games, as "very dynamic markets."

The IOC official said that while he didn't expect the potential facilities to be on the agenda for next month's visit, "what makes sense is to take the opportunities when they arise and keep flexibility especially when you're looking at Games that is to be delivered 10 years from now. So we really have time."

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Lisa Riley Roche


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