Another Olympics in Park City: Only ‘developers, resorts, & realtors’ benefit, or a ‘catalyst for a greener Utah’? Wide range of opinions expressed during community conversations about efforts to host another Games.

Article by Jay Hamburger for the Park Record (January 26, 2023)

For some in Park City and surrounding Summit County, the prospects of a second Winter Olympics in the state spur concern about the possibility of losing the character of the community.

But others see another Games as something that could galvanize the community and build pride.

The wide-ranging views of the efforts to host a Winter Olympics, perhaps as early as the event of 2030, are illustrated in a report that was released in recent days amid the continuing talks about a Games.

Mountain Mediation Center drafted the 15-page report, basing it on a series of events held between September and November that were designed to be community conversations about the Olympic bidding. City Hall and the County Courthouse tapped the Mountain Mediation Center for the work. The conversations, which drew a combined 138 people, and the subsequent report were the first broad readings of sentiments in Park City and wider Summit County.

Leaders in Park City and Summit County desired the input as the International Olympic Committee continues to consider options for the Games of 2030 and those of four years later.

The Park City Council and the Summit County Council on Tuesday, meeting jointly, received a briefing about the Olympic work from members of the group mounting the bid. The release of the Mountain Mediation Center report coincided with the preparations for the Tuesday meeting.

The especially noteworthy sections of the report cover what Mountain Mediation Center labels concerns about the Games and the hopes for an Olympics. The report provides generalized lists of the topics the crowds brought up during the community conversations in 2022.

The topics largely track the issues the Park City area has been attempting to address for years, since even prior to the Winter Olympics in 2002. The people who provided input appear to have been concerned about the impact of a second Games on topics like growth, traffic and the environment. Those sorts of issues have driven much of the conversations in the Park City area since at least the 1990s.

It has been expected for some time people in the Park City area would offer such disparate opinions about a second Olympics that it would be difficult to center on any singular hope or concern. Even more than 20 years after the Games of 2002, when the Park City area hosted upward of half of the competitions, there are split feelings. Many look back to the Games with pride and a sense of accomplishment, but others see the Olympics of 21 years ago as having exacerbated long-running concerns about growth, traffic, affordability and the impact of the tourism industry.

The meeting on Tuesday was a rare joint session between the elected officials in Park City and Summit County addressing the Olympic efforts. Both jurisdictions would be heavily involved in the planning for a Games and the staging of the event. The Olympic issues generally stretch through both Park City and Summit County, meaning the opinions outlined in the report are relevant to the leadership at the Marsac Building and the County Courthouse.

The elected officials during the meeting mentioned a series of topics, but the gathering did not appear to be the venue for a detailed discussion about the Games. Both Park City and Summit County are expected to individually continue to hold Olympic-related meetings.

Some of the comments by the elected officials on Tuesday touched on the possibility of leveraging a Games as community improvements are pursued, and a desire for further details about the demographics of the people who are participating in the Olympic talks.

Concerns outlined in the report include the possibility of “increasing socioeconomic disparity” and the idea there could be a “Post-event housing boom.” Hopes include “Planning for an Olympics will be a catalyst for a greener Utah” and “Improve transportation between Salt Lake City and Park City.”

Others include:

• a concern about losing community character, such as the area could ultimately be “No longer a small town,” “No longer a ski town” or “No longer a historic town.”

• a hope that Games-related funds can be “used to build structures for the Olympics that can later become affordable housing.”

• a concern that “Locals with long-term housing needs will be kicked out in favor of short-term rental profits.”

• a hope that planning for a Games “will be a catalyst for a greener Utah,” such as through “motivated green decision making” and the protection of land from development.

• a concern that “Developers, resorts, & realtors are the only ones who will receive benefits.”

• a hope that a Games can “inspire the next generation of athletes.”

It is not clear when the International Olympic Committee will select a host for the Games of 2030. The Lausanne, Switzerland-based organization has paused the process as it considers the longterm future of the Games, including the impact of climate change. A decision was expected in 2023, but the pause could lead to a delay in the selection.

The Park City area would play a major role in a second Olympics, as was the case in 2002. Park City Mountain, Deer Valley Resort and the Utah Olympic Park are identified as important competition venues in the plans for another Games. Park City would also be key to transportation, security and celebration planning.

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