Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted at 12:40 a.m., Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Olympics: USOC could move headquarters

By David Sell
The Gazette

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. The U.S. Olympic Committee could decide as early as Friday whether to move its headquarters out of Colorado Springs.

The USOC has talked with political and real estate development officials from Colorado Springs, Chicago and other unnamed cities regarding a potential move.

Asked if a decision was possible at Friday's USOC board meeting in Atlanta, spokesman Darryl Seibel said he could not say for sure.

"Our ongoing analysis will be a point of discussion," Seibel said Tuesday night. "Whether management makes a recommendation and asks the board to act on it, I can't say."

Seibel said the uncertainty was due in part to other important agenda items involving preparations for the Summer Olympics in Beijing, which begin Aug. 8.

"It's also a function of whether the board has questions and wants to study additional information" about the proposals to stay in Colorado Springs or move, Seibel said. "We have purposely not set a timetable because the intent is to make the best decision without an arbitrary deadline."

Seibel said the board would have an opportunity to approve any recommendation by management and real estate consultant Jim Didion.

Didion has a long history in commercial real estate and is a business associate of USOC chairman Peter Ueberroth. Ueberroth asked Didion to explore the options for the USOC as it tries to meet its changing needs.

The USOC left New York for Colorado Springs in 1978 and then built the Olympic Training Center on 34 acres at the corner of Union and Boulder. Offices for national governing bodies of some sports also occupy that land or are elsewhere in town. But the USOC and some of those ancillary organizations have outgrown the space. With other cities interested in hosting the organization, the USOC is using the leverage to strike the best deal.

"We don't do this every year," Seibel said. "We have long-term needs in three areas."

Those areas are improved training facilities for athletes, which could grow on the Colorado Springs campus if offices are moved elsewhere, and administrative offices for the USOC and some of the individual sports governing bodies.

"We have ambitious plans to grow the Olympic movement and the organization," Seibel said. "We could keep them together or split them up in some ways."

USOC board member Anita DeFrantz said several years ago that she preferred the headquarters to be a larger city to improve marketing and that view has not changed.

"The executive offices don't need to be in Colorado Springs," DeFrantz said Tuesday. "The training center should stay."

Like DeFrantz, Jim Easton is member of the USOC board of directors and the International Olympic Committee.

Asked if he was inclined to push for the headquarters to leave Colorado Springs, Easton said, "Not really. If the main training center is there, then it seems like a good spot. With a company, I'd want the executives to be near the employees."

The Chicago Tribune reported yesterday that space in the world famous, but under-used, Sears Tower was part of Chicago's bid to win the USOC headquarters, according to anonymous sources.

WLS-TV, the ABC affiliate in Chicago, reported that a source close to the talks said Sears Tower management is open to the idea of renaming the building after the USOC or the Olympics in some way. A Sears Tower spokesman declined comment, according to the station.

The USOC chose Chicago as this country's candidate to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. One theory for moving USOC headquarters to Chicago is to have USOC officials closer to the Chicago 2016 organizers to ensure the best 2016 bid.

That alone was not enough for Easton.

"I don't think you'd move there on the hope that it gets the bid," Easton said.

Colorado Springs leaders asked several area developers to offer proposals, some of which include downtown office space.

Asked if more office space might negate Chicago's larger profile, DeFrantz laughed.

"I want the Olympic movement to serve the whole country," she said. "I won't speculate on square footage."