How Utah plans to fund estimated 2034 Winter Olympics $2.83B operating budget

Olympic ring banners hang at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns on April 12. The Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games unveiled its proposed 2034 Winter Olympics operating budget on Monday.

Olympic ring banners hang at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns on April 12. The Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games unveiled its proposed 2034 Winter Olympics operating budget on Monday. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Leaders of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games believe they can cover the $2.83 billion 2034 Winter Olympics' operating budget without local, state or federal taxpayer dollars and still "break even" at the very least.

The committee unveiled its proposed operating budget and other financial figures — projected 2034 values — on Monday, days before the International Olympic Committee Future Host Commission will present its recommendations to the IOC Executive Board. The board could set up a vote on whether to award the 2034 event to Salt Lake City, which would be carried out next month.

Fraser Bullock, the committee's president and CEO, said the plan is to lean on commercial and private sources — such as domestic sponsorships, ticketing and hospitality — to cover the costs. It expects to generate nearly $3 billion in sponsorships and ticket/hospitality sales alone, which covers about three-fourths of the nearly $4 billion projected event revenue.

Should the projections come to fruition, it expects to direct $260 million toward a "legacy" fund to support Utah community sports programs. The remaining $905 million would go toward a joint marketing program with the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

"We know we're going to break even because there's a fundamental rule of Olympic Games that we live by, which is you spend less than you take in," he said in a virtual meeting with reporters. "We're hopeful to go beyond (breaking) even."

Costs and revenues

The projected budget is included in a questionnaire response the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games provided the Future Host Commission earlier this year.

Planning for the 2034 event budget started with the final cost of the 2002 Winter Olympics and Paralympics and went through more than 100 iterations during "years of work," Bullock said. He explained the biggest immediate changes were a 40% increase in events since 2002 and venue requirements adjustments over the past two decades.

The committee also met with "outside experts" who pulled off recent Olympics, to hammer out a document that anticipates when costs and revenues will begin to ramp up, such as when certain personnel will need to be hired and ticketing needs. It also adjusts the cost and revenue to reflect anticipated 2034 values.

The estimated revenue and expenses are preliminary, as Bullock expects the budget will change over the next decade to reflect evolving needs. But he believes the current figure is a "solid projection."

"The reason we did this is so that we have an incredible amount of detail to support these numbers," he said. "They're not just estimates based on '02; they've been built with an extreme amount of detail from the ground up."

Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games officials say it's similar to the final cost of the 2002 Winter Games, when adjusted to inflation. The big reason for this is the projected cost of taking on a 40% increase in events is essentially offset by not needing new venues for the 2034 event.

Brett Hopkins, the committee's chief operating officer and chief financial officer, said having venues already regularly maintained "removes a lot of uncertainty" for the 2034 Winter Olympics. Overall, venue infrastructure, event services and operations are — combined — expected to cost about $1.1 billion in 2034.

At least 40 departments will manage smaller budgets with more than 1,000 line items as the event approaches so the overarching budget can be carried out. The committee estimates a peak of 1,700 full-time employees, some part-time staff and an unknown number of volunteers by 2034. This is expected to cost almost $500 million, while technology, ceremonies, communication and many other items account for the rest of the expected costs.

Hopkins said the committee will rely on the barbell pricing strategy for tickets, which, he says, will help cover the costs "privately." That means some high-demand events will be expensive, but lower-demand events will be more affordable. He estimates there will be over 30,000 tickets priced "in the $34 range."

Beyond sponsorships and ticket sales/hospitality, the event is expected to receive over $750 million from IOC contributions/programs, $200 million from licensing/merchandising and more than $300 million from various other sources that don't include taxpayer dollars.

Contingencies are included in both cost and revenue , to account for possible variations, Hopkins explained. The ultimate financial goal is to end up with over $1 billion in profits, including $260 million directed to local programs after the 2034 Games.

"Olympic budgeting is, in fact, an unofficial Olympic sport," he said. "There's just a tremendous amount that goes on behind the scenes."

Economic impact

The massive questionnaire document unveiled on Monday includes all sorts of additional information. For example, Utah organizers are currently targeting Feb. 10, 2034, as the opening date for the 2034 Winter Olympics. It would wrap up on Feb. 26, 2034, before the Paralympic Winter Games are held from March 10-19, 2034.

It also touches on possible economic impacts. The University of Utah Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute previously estimated the Olympics could generate $3.9 billion in economic output, based on 2030 estimates.

"The Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2034 will bring impactful benefits to our state," Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said in a statement Monday. "It's a very purposeful opportunity for us."

The IOC could vote as early as July 24 to officially award the 2034 Games to Salt Lake City; after it was named a "preferred host" last year.

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com.

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