As Sacramento prepares to bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympic games, having the right venues on offer – such as a new entertainment and sports complex – will be a key factor to a successful bid.
Representatives from the California Winter Games Committee reported to the City Council Tuesday about progress the committee is making to join the bidding process to become a host city.
The committee is a volunteer group composed of both state and local civic, business and labor leaders and is working in conjunction with a similar committee from the Lake Tahoe area.
Jake Mossawir, chief financial officer for the CWGC, said the group has been polling residents, researching historical data and reviewing similar bid process efforts to raise awareness about the prospect of hosting the Winter Games in this region.
One of the key pieces of information the committee considered, Mossawir said, was an assessment of local venues – including the possibility of a new entertainment and sports complex located at the downtown railyards.
“The benefits of a future Winter Games would be more fully realized with an entertainment and sports complex – one that supports the major ice sports – namely ice hockey and figure skating,” Mossawir said Tuesday.
“It’s a huge undertaking,” City Councilman Rob Fong said Tuesday. “I think everyone on the Nevada side understands that the only way for this to work is to be a California-Nevada joint effort.”
If the Lake Tahoe/Sacramento bid is successful, it will be the first time the Winter Games have been to the Sierras since 1960 in Squaw Valley – and the first time they have been in the United States since 2002 in Salt Lake City.
Jim Rinehart, economic development director, told council members that the employment impact of a future Winter Games in the region would be significant.
Some local industries that would see the greatest benefit from a Winter Games include arts and entertainment, recreation and retail trades, Rinehart said.
But, by far, food and accommodations – comprising a large number of workers in the travel and tourism industry – is expected to benefit the most with more than 106,000 jobs, he added.
Overall, Rinehart said, more than 170,000 full-time jobs could be created between 2017 and 2027 – the time period before, during and after the games.
Rinehart said competing cities vying for the games work many years before a selection is made, and “much work” would be necessary to make this region ready for the games.
“We don’t have many mountains here in Sacramento,” Fong said, “so we aren’t likely going to host downhill (ski) races. But, we could certainly host a number of (ice) rink events if we have the facilities for them.”
Fong said that, as the City Council considers the design of a new entertainment and sports complex, the prospect of making the facility usable for Olympic events should definitely be part of the plan.
“We need to have the associated services around the facility, too,” he added. “(The games) would be something big for the region.”
Mossawir said that projects under way at the railyards and the River District would be boosted by the city serving as a central hub for the games.
The region would still benefit from hosting the Olympics without a major venue in the city, Mossawir said, but it would be much less.
“It (is) a question of whether or not we want to be a stop on the way to the games or if we want to be a destination city that houses major Olympic contests,” he said.
Both the California Winter Games Committee and its sister committee in Nevada are working together with the goal of hosting the games in California with Lake Tahoe as the hub, bringing a region-wide benefit, according to a June 2011 press release.
The group has until the end of the year to make its final pitch to the U.S. Olympic Committee, which will make its selection from among all the American city contenders to send to the International Olympic Committee.
The IOC will select a final bid by 2015 – the same year the proposed entertainment and sports complex would be completed if plans are finalized by the City Council.
Denver and Salt Lake City are the other cities in the western region vying for the United States’ nomination bid.
The U.S. bid for the 2012 Games in New York was lost to London, and the bid for the 2016 Games in Chicago was lost to Rio de Janeiro.
Mossawir said the California Winter Games Committee will release in-depth viability reports in the next few weeks, followed by another update report to the City Council.
Melissa Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.