A U.S. Olympic site-selection committee will tour five San Diego County sites this weekend, evaluating local proposals for a permanent, year-round training center for American athletes.
San Diego has an exclusive negotiating agreement with the U.S. Olympic Committee to provide $120 million in training facilities for 400 to 500 American athletes. If selected, San Diego would be the only training center west of the Rocky Mountains and the only warm-weather location. Current Olympic training centers are in Colorado Springs, Colo.; Lake Placid, N.Y., and Marquette, Mich. In addition, 75% of the athletes training at Colorado Springs are Californians.
Group to Take Saturday Helicopter Tour
Larry McCollum, director of Olympic training centers, and three members of the Olympic site-selection committee will arrive today and take a Saturday helicopter tour of two sites in Carlsbad, one on Lake Hodges south of Escondido, and one at Lower Otay Reservoir in the South Bay before landing in Balboa Park's Florida Canyon to tour the Morley Field athletic fields and an adjacent landfill site.
The Olympic group also will tour San Diego State University athletic training and physical sciences facilities and be briefed by Sail America officials and local practitioners of sports medicine.
Both Carlsbad sites, on the northern shores of Batiquitos Lagoon, are being considered for real estate developments. The proposed Batiquitos Lagoon Educational Park is between Interstate 5 and the ocean; Pacific Rim Country Club and Resort is between I-5 and El Camino Real.
McCollum said that no immediate decision will be made on the training center. Instead, site committee members will be judging the interest of public officials and the adequacy of the San Diego-area locations. A formal presentation by San Diego officials is scheduled for mid-April, when the exclusive negotiating agreement between San Diego and the USOC expires.
In Colorado Springs, city officials leased the training center site--a former Air Force installation--to the USOC "at a very attractive rate," and athletes use the base's Quonset huts as training facilities, McCollum said. In Lake Placid, former winter Olympics facilities are used for training athletes.
"We realize that in the San Diego area, with the high cost of land, that there is going to have to be a very sizable investment," he said, "and we would expect some commitments from local governments, through tax funds or community subscription."
'A New Industry'
He said that a 36-acre site "would be the minimum size" for a training center, "and we wouldn't want to be out somewhere that would require an athlete to drive an hour and a half to his job."
In return for local support, an Olympic training center would provide prestige and "would draw thousands of visitors to this area," McCollum said. "In effect, we are bringing in a new industry."
San Diego Councilwoman Gloria McColl, chairwoman of a task force of the area's most influential business and civic leaders, who are assembling the training center proposal, said that the weekend tour "is a chance for us to show them that we are on the cutting edge" of sports medicine, modern training techniques and design capabilities sought by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
McColl said that the 20-member task force has been working quietly for about 18 months "to put together a package that will be hard to refuse."
Transportation for athletes, housing, food service, part- and full-time work opportunities, educational grants and a substantial financial subsidy for the project are all part of the proposal the San Diego task force will present to Olympic officials next April, she said.
On Sunday, the Olympic visitors will critique the local plans and will offer suggestions on how to improve San Diego's chances to become an Olympic training center, McColl said.
"We are hopeful that we will be given official approval on our proposal next year so that we can begin our task in earnest," she said. Fund-raising through a nonprofit foundation already formed cannot begin until the USOC sanctions the project, she said.
McColl said that an initial investment of $40 million to $60 million would be needed to provide housing and training quarters for the Olympic athletes. The creation of a $120-million permanent campus center would be phased in over a number of years, she said.