An Olympic legacy brings year-round sporting events to Utah

Apr 14, 2024, 12:22 PM

SALT LAKE CITY — Saturday wrapped an inspection by Olympic organizers, gauging Utah’s readiness to host the 2034 Winter Olympics. In the same week, the state learned a National Hockey League team is likely coming to Utah.

There is a connection.

After the 2002 Olympics, the world knew Utah only as a winter sports state. The legacy of 2002 put Utah on the map and allowed the state to show its world-class sports capabilities, and eventually, it wasn’t just winter sports at play.

“The economic impact has been amazing,” said Jeff Robbins, CEO of Utah Sports Commission.

He estimates Utah has hosted over 1,000 summer sporting events since the Olympics, and many with the revenue and exposure to pack a large punch:

  • UFC fight in 2023 with a sell-out crowd; $1 billion in media value globally
  • USA Girls Volleyball qualifiers 2024; attracted 20,000 fans and $16 million
  • NBA All-Star Game 2023; generated an estimated $250 million

“You really can do things in all seasons. Almost all of the sports that are in the Olympics, summer and winter, which is probably pretty unique for a state to do,” Robbins said.

The Utah Sports Commission developed a “state of sport” strategy to build on Utah’s 2002 legacy. The strategy is to lead planned efforts to not only keep Olympic venues operational but to attract new sports and events:

  • USA Climbing is now headquartered in Utah and staging events in the state
  • Utah hosts the world’s largest mountain bike event, The Red Bull Rampage
  • The Iron Man World Championships are staged in St. George
  • Utah’s newest venue, an Olympic-sized skate park, attracted attention from sports legend Tony Hawk

Members of the International Olympic Committee’s Future Host Commission toured Utah’s proposed Olympic venues this week. It is one of the final hurdles before the committee officially recommends the host for the 2034 games, of which Utah is the only hopeful candidate.

During the IOC’s visit, the Arizona Coyotes general manager, Bill Armstrong, told his players the hockey team is likely coming to Utah next year. He informed players the team would likely be sold to Utah Jazz owners Ryan and Ashley Smith the following season.

Other surfacing discussions hope to bring Major League Baseball to Utah, and it appears the sports world has taken notice.

“If you’re looking from the outside of the state, you’d say, ‘Wow, if there’s something I can’t find that I like about Utah …’ Maybe they’re not looking hard enough, right?” Robbins joked.

Next up, Robbins said, the Utah Sports Commission is working to bring professional pickleball to Utah with some of the top players in the world.

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An Olympic legacy brings year-round sporting events to Utah