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Utah’s economy could get a $6.6B boost from hosting the 2034 Winter Olympics

A panel discusses the economic impact the 2034 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games would have on Utah at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute Newsmaker Breakfast, a monthly event highlighting important issues impacting Utahns. From left to right: Natalie Gochnour, director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute; John Downen, Senior Research Fellow, Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute; Brett Hopkins, CFO/COO, Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games; Catherine Raney Norman, Chairman, Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games; and Colin Hilton, CEO, Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation.
Rick Bowmer/AP
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AP
FILE - Hidenari Kanayama, of Japan, races down the track during the men's Luge World Cup on Dec. 14, 2013, in Park City, Utah. Salt Lake City's enduring enthusiasm for hosting the Olympics will be on full display Wednesday, April 10, 2024, when members of the International Olympic Committee come to Utah for a site visit ahead of a formal announcement expected this July to name Salt Lake City the host for the 2034 Winter Olympics. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

State economists project hosting the 2034 Winter Olympic Games could pump as much as $6.6 billion and over 42,000 “job years” into Utah’s economy.

The prediction is laid out in a study from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute which analyzed the economic and fiscal impacts of hosting the Games in 10 years. The data was shared at the institute's monthly Newsmaker Breakfast Wednesday — two weeks before Utah will learn if the Games are headed back to the Beehive State.

Bottom line, the report says: hosting the Olympics will have “significant positive economic and fiscal impacts for the state.”

According to the five-page report, the estimated cumulative total economic impact would be $6.6 billion in industry sales. That includes gains of almost $3.9 billion in state gross domestic product, $2.5 billion in personal income and over 42,000 job-years of employment. One job-year is a job that lasts for one year.

The findings are driven by an estimated $2.6 billion in new spending in the decade leading up to and one year after the 2034 Games. The amount is based on 2023 dollars and adjusted for purchases from out-of-state companies, in-state revenue sources, and a drop in regular skier visitation over the 15 days of competitions.

Despite the positive forecast, the same report also says the 2002 Games had a larger economic impact. From 1996 to 2003, the Games created the equivalent of $7.5 billion in industry sales, including $3.7 billion in personal income and almost 46,000 job-years of employment. There was an estimated $3.1 billion in new spending over the same period.

One factor contributing to 2034’s lower projected impact is that Utah won’t need to build major Olympic venues. Instead, the Bid Committee will use locations maintained since the 2002 Games, such as the Utah Olympic Park, Utah Olympic Oval and Soldier Hollow Nordic Center.

The committee's budget includes $31.2 million to maintain and make minor upgrades to those venues. That’s compared to the over $286 million (in 2023 dollars) officials spent on facilities in 2002.

But Bid Committee CFO and COO Brett Hopkins said Wednesday lower spending numbers cause a decreased impact.

“We talk about construction, and we're happy we don't have to spend as much as in ‘02, only to find out it brings down the output in your calculation,” he said.

By maintaining and using those venues, Utah has created a unique, living Olympic legacy, Hopkins said. Most host countries preserve the facilities for use only by elite athletes, he said. But Utah took a more holistic approach in 2002 by focusing on youth development and creating community recreation centers.

“You can't just think about opening facilities and hoping people will come use them. You have to employ the coaches to run the programs, the instructors to teach, learn to skate. You have to do all of these elements to actually drive what we call a living legacy,” he said.

And hosting another Games will only strengthen that legacy.

“For the legacy to really endure, it can't just live off of stories of old people,” Hopkins said. “You have to experience it, and that will strengthen that legacy as we go forward.”

Bid Committee Chair Catherine Raney Norman said the International Olympic Committee’s Future Host Commission was impressed with Utahns' connection to the Games during their visit in April. She said the legacy of human connection from the 2002 Games is why over 80% of Utahns support the Games coming back in 2034.

However, Rainey Norman and Hopkins said the committee wants to leave more than a living legacy in Utah; it wants to make a positive impact globally.

“It's not just about our impact here locally, but also to Brent’s point globally,” she said. “How can we continue to work with our international partners?”

A panel discusses the economic impact the 2034 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games would have on Utah at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute Newsmaker Breakfast, a monthly event highlighting important issues impacting Utahns. From left to right: Natalie Gochnour, director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute; John Downen, Senior Research Fellow, Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute; Brett Hopkins, CFO/COO, Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games; Catherine Raney Norman, Chairman, Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games; and Colin Hilton, CEO, Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation.
Kristine Weller
/
KPCW
A panel discusses the economic impact the 2034 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games would have on Utah at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute Newsmaker Breakfast, a monthly event highlighting important issues impacting Utahns. From left to right: Natalie Gochnour, director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute; John Downen, Senior Research Fellow, Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute; Brett Hopkins, CFO/COO, Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games; Catherine Raney Norman, Chairman, Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games; and Colin Hilton, CEO, Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation.

However, some Utahns are concerned about the number of people that will travel to Utah for the 2034 Games since it’s already difficult getting to ski areas in the winter. Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation CEO Colin Hilton mentioned some traffic challenges Summit and Wasatch counties are facing now. Heber is working to get a bypass road to pull traffic away from its Main Street and Park City and Summit County are working on reducing traffic to ski resorts.

“The games can actually be an accelerant to try to get that solved,” he said. “Deadlines are good, especially for government, and it's something to target and try to hit.”

Hopkins said infrastructure upgrades go along with the committee’s goal to “elevate” local communities. He said Utah’s goal in 2002 was to put the state on the map. For 2034, the goal is to give back.