PARK CITY, Utah - If it is true that the three keys to real estate are location, location, location, then this town is two-thirds of the way home.
It is only a
half-hour's interstate drive east of Salt Lake City, with its
airport, hotels and restaurants - so close to a major metropolitan
area, and yet a true mountain town, backed into a steep canyon like
a stage, with ski slopes rolling down its mountain
And quaint - Park City comes by its
Victorian look legitimately, thanks to its birth as a mining town.
For decades, it was a high-altitude, rough-and-ready, industrial
enclave in a mid-elevation, Mormon, agrarian state. Some things
haven't changed; the town is still plying a perilous trade subject
to the whims of the global economy. The new game is
The countdown to the Olympics has
started, and Park City, this combination ski town and metro area
suburb, is psyching up for its biggest performance ever. In 2002,
crowds will gather here to watch the slalom races at the Park City
Ski Area and the freestyle skiing and aerial jumps at nearby Deer
Valley. They'll flock to the Utah Winter Sports Park on the
outskirts of town, where the ski jumping, bobsledding and luge
competitions will rage.
The world will be
watching. And while Park City is no stranger to the spotlight, it
stands to win, or lose, a lot more than money on the Olympics. When
the curtain goes up in 2002, the community's soul will be on the
The world is welcome
Bring it on, says Park City spokesman Myles
Rademan. "Utah certainly needs more advertisement. This is what we
do for a living. We're in a dream and entertainment business."
At the peak of ski season, this town of 7,500
sleeps 13,000 more who stay in condos and hotels. The Sundance Film
Festival brings 80,000 people over 11 days. And every August,
20,000 people cram Main Street to buy pots and paintings, watch
belly dancers and listen to the blues at the Park City Art
"We've been doing
events for years. This is nothing new," says Frank Bell, who is in
charge of planning for the Olympics. As Park City sheriff, Bell ran
crowd control for years, buzzing around in his official Jeep like a
It is tourists - 350,000
overnighters each year - that keep this town going. "Tourist
dollars are good dollars," says longtime real estate agent Carol
Agle. "They come, they leave their money and they go home."
Now, Park City is beefing up for more. The Park
City Ski Area is moving its parking underground so it can build
condos, a hotel and an eight-story tower. Deer Valley has big plans
as well. And the American Ski Company plans to transform Park
City's former ragtag local ski resort, The Canyons, into the
largest resort in the United States.
Community or colony?
tourist trade has taken its toll on Park City, which is set off
from the rest of mostly Mormon Utah by a colorful mining-town
history that earned it the nickname "Sin City." Some of the old
mining and ranching families still live in town, but for the most
part, the families that link Park City to its past are
Taking their places are the owners
of condos and second homes. Park City's hip, hard-playing lifestyle
and spectacular setting have brought throngs of well-off lifestyle
groupies. Nonresidents own 60 to 75 percent of the property in
town, according to Frank Bell.
machine running are teachers, fire crews and cops, nomadic ski bums
and an increasing number of Hispanic workers. But the pay isn't
great and affordable housing is hard to come by, so many of them
commute to Park City from Heber or Salt Lake.
their way to work, they pass a growing number of suburbanites en
route to Salt Lake City from the valleys around Park City. Since
1970, Park City's population has risen from just over a thousand to
7,500; the county went from 6,000 to 17,500; and the growth shows
no signs of slowing.
The growing population adds
pressure to the schools and city and county governments. "We have a
hard time getting new blood" involved in the community, says Frank
Bell, and convincing people to run for public office and serve on
boards and commissions is like pulling teeth.
Who's running the show?
critics say 12 days in the Olympic spotlight will only make things
"You're selling your
identity," says University of Nevada tourism expert Hal Rothman.
Rothman has spent 15 years following towns like Santa Fe and Aspen.
At first glance, tourism seems like an economic boon, he says,
until it has unexpected consequences.
publicity will only bring more wealth and more development, he
says. Realtors, land owners and restaurateurs will make a killing
while the working class will find it harder to live in the town
they help support. The colorful locals that make Park City unique
will be slowly squeezed out.
Unless Park City
decides "the values of the community are more important than some
of its members making a lot of money," says Rothman, it may end up
like Aspen: "a haven for celebrities, the super-rich, and the
While some say Park City lost
its identity the day the first ski lift went up, a core community
has survived here - a community that is pushing for more affordable
housing and open space, and trying to hang on to the things that
still make the town unique.
When the Olympics
arrive, Park City is determined to be prepared. Myles Rademan,
Frank Bell and others have visited past Olympic towns and lingered
behind the scenes in Atlanta and Nagano. The town has already
pulled in federal money to help with a long-range transportation
plan. Now it has joined a "Venues Cities' group to help other
communities prepare for the big
"We've seen what the
Olympics look like," says Rademan. "Now it's a matter of defining
how we benefit and how we present ourselves to the world. We want
to make sure the Olympics don't happen to us."