Region woos Winter Olympics
From building a new arena to using an old skiing site – organizers trying to secure the 2014 or 2018 Winter Olympics in the Reno-Tahoe region have plenty of ideas.
The Nevada Commission on Sports started a feasibility study it will turn over to the United States Olympic Committee in 18 months. Commissioner Jerry Cail envisions a widespread platform in which many events would be held in Reno-area venues with skiing in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
More than 200 companies and organizations will be invited to a forum within the year to discuss the prospect, he said. Organizers also plan to meet with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to review potential environmental problems.
“We’re trying to stay out of the bowl as much as possible because of the TRPA,” Cail said Wednesday.
Interest from the lake’s ski resorts is mixed.
“We’ve already got the feeling that Heavenly isn’t interested,” Cail said. John Wagnon, Heavenly’s vice president of marketing, indicated the benefits would need to outweigh the costs.
Squaw Valley USA – which the commission hopes to involve for alpine skiing events – would be open to a spot-host slot for a return of the games to the area. Squaw hosted the 1960 Olympics.
Since the event put the North Shore resort on the map 40 years ago, the ski area’s ice rink has been eliminated, the ski-school locker room moved and the base lodge has expanded.
“If the Olympics were to come back, it probably would have to go to a larger area like Reno” as the host city, spokeswoman Katja Dahl said.
The USOC traditionally chooses its host city 11 years before the year of the event. The International Olympic Committee makes its choice seven years prior. Park City, Utah, is only the third American city chosen to host the Winter Olympics.
Some Reno and Lake Tahoe tourism officials have the desire to host the Olympics. But infrastructure improvements – most of them permanent – could represent the largest hurdle.
Cail wants to have a $41 million arena built north of Reno that would host hockey and ice skating events. Speed skating may be included, if the necessary seating requirements are made.
A Reno property owner has even talked to organizers about the possibility of donating 44 acres to build the arena, but Cail declined to say who it is.
Cail, the owner of Bear Industries Printing and Publishing in Sparks, has also expressed interest in building temporary and permanent housing in the Tahoe region for the athletes.
“Theoretically, it would be great. We have a special area here,” Nevada Commission on Tourism spokeswoman Chris Chrystal said. “All we need is the funding and infrastructure in place. I think it would be an enormous undertaking, but it’s something to strive for.”
Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority Chairwoman Deb Howard characterized the undertaking as a double-edged sword.
“While the burden is on the community that hosts it, the economic benefit can be a godsend,” Howard said. She added the preparation for such a venture may force the region to implement much-needed transportation improvements.
The Tahoe-Douglas Visitors Authority has no official position on the matter, Executive Director Steve Teshara said. Repeated calls for comment to the Reno Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority were unreturned.
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