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SBJ/November 5 - 11, 2001/Olympics
Entrepreneurs filter into Utah for Games
Published November 5, 2001
Other than final construction stages of a transit rail system, a scan of downtown Salt Lake City provides little indication that the 2002 Olympic Winter Games are fewer than 100 days away from focusing global attention on Utah.
This is, in some ways, a response to calls for the spartan Games that government leaders and Olympic organizers say are right for the times.
But there are a few opportunists around. Rod Sabino recently returned to his native state to open a Euro-style coffee kiosk. He cut a deal to station his kiosk next to the circular drive of the new Hotel Monaco. It's just a block or so from a major hub of Games activity — the Delta Center and the Salt Lake Convention Center.
During the Games Feb. 8-24, Sabino said, he will shrink his beverage menu from 20 items to four, focusing on what European consumers prefer, and charge one price, $3.75. Coffee drinks now range from $1.25 to $2.95.
Olympic memorabilia collector Bret Almassy last year opened the Pin & Collectibles Gallery along Main Street, a thoroughfare that is served by the new light rail system, Utrax. The shop is a likely magnet for Games visitors caught up in the inevitable search for unique pins, posters and other novelties bearing Olympic rings. Almassy's shop has a few items that are not for sale, such as a 1952 Olympic bronze medal.
Many downtown hotels are fully booked with large groups that committed months ago. The new Grand America will be home to several global and national Olympic sponsors, who will pay nearly five times recent promotional rates. The Hotel Monaco also will be a haven for sponsors. A less-than-year-old Marriott is hosting members and guests of the International Olympic Committee. Other corporate and tour groups will stay in ski chalets and condos in the nearby mountains.
Restaurateur Fred Boutwell said he does not anticipate widespread price gouging among popular downtown dining spots. Prices at the Market Street Grill and Oyster Bar will not be adjusted for the Games, said Boutwell, the general manager.
"Some of our regular customers may lay low initially until they figure out things haven't gotten as crazy as they thought," he said. "The biggest concern is getting them here and parking. Typically, people in Utah do not like to walk or pay to park."