Chicago 2016 – New Venue Plan, Less Money

While unveiling an enhanced venue plan for the Chicago 2016 Summer Olympic Games bid, bid officials acknowledged Chicago’s financial guarantee for the bid has become riskier.

It was announced Friday that in addition to hosting the Olympic Stadium where athletics will be held, Washington Park would be home to the aquatics venue. The aquatics facility would feature a permanent warm-up pool and a temporary competition pool, in addition to a diving well and a separate pool and facility for water polo.

Olympic hockey would take place within Jackson Park, and after the Games would become a multisport facility featuring artificial turf to be used by the community.

Douglas Park would be the home to a combination of classic and contemporary Olympic and Paralympic events with the addition of a velodrome that would host track and BMX cycling events. Once the Games are over the velodrome would be transformed into a year-round multisport facility to accommodate cycling, indoor soccer, basketball, volleyball, a fitness centre and other sports.

Beach volleyball, sailing and canoe/kayak would be held at Northerly Island. In addition to a slalom course the centre would feature a new facility for rafting, kayaking and wall climbing. The remainder of the island will accommodate courts for beach volleyball.

Sailing would be a temporary facility in Burnham Harbor, which would also feature new spectator zones.

Chicago 2016 Chairman and CEO Patrick Ryan said, “we’ve been hard at work getting insight from key groups on how to strengthen our plan and enhance our vision to create a spectacular Olympic experience for the athletes, spectators and Olympic Family.

“We have been equally focused on ensuring that our Games time plans are sensitive to the concerns of the local communities, and that we leave a legacy that is consistent with out commitment to the future of our city, youth and Olympic sport and ideals”, he said.

Meanwhile officials said Friday that Chicago’s financial guarantee of the city’s Olympic bid has become riskier because of the worsening real estate market. Last year city council approved a $500 million guarantee that the 2016 Summer Games wouldn’t operate in the red.

Ryan told a news conference there will be less money available to ensure that city taxpayers won’t be on the hook because of the declining real estate market.

Initially the city’s guarantee was reportedly supported by predictions of a $725 million operating surplus. Ryan said the surplus has declined to about $500 million because officials are no longer certain of the price they will receive for selling air rights to developers over a McCormick Place truck yard. The air rights were initially expected to bring about $225 million. Officials have taken that amount out of the budget because the real estate market is so uncertain.

But Ryan said he doesn’t believe city taxpayers will have to make good on the guarantee, calling it “still a very significant number at $500 million”.

He said Olympic boosters are hoping to buy additional private insurance to bolster the guarantee.