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Monday, May 27, 2024

Valley’s Olympic Park

With the Olympic Games coming to Los Angeles in 2028, the San Fernando Valley figures to play a key role in the world’s premiere athletic event. Last year, LA 2028, the city’s Olympic organizing committee, released renderings of a sports pavilion in the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area that is set to host shooting, equestrian riding, kayaking and canoeing. City officials and business leaders expect the events at the facility, called the Valley Sports Park, to bring an economic boost to the Valley. “We have a really ambitious program to transform the Sepulveda Basin Area into the premier urban sports park in America,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in a speech at the Valley Industry and Commerce Association’s Business Forecast Conference on Oct. 26. “We can do amazing things here, and we are going to have the Olympics invest millions of dollars in the San Fernando Valley.” One of the main selling points of Los Angeles’s Olympic bid was that the city already had plenty of arenas and stadiums to hold the events and wouldn’t have to spend billions on new infrastructure. In keeping with the low-impact pitch, the Valley Sports Park will be a mostly temporary facility with a smaller price tag than most of the permanent structures host cities have built for prior Olympics. That’s not to suggest the park won’t be up to the task. It will consist of two separate arenas for equestrian riding and shooting, as well as an aquatic slalom course near Lake Balboa for kayaking and canoeing. In all, the park will be able to hold 51,000 spectators. The city’s Olympic Committee is also considering constructing additional temporary parks in the Valley for events such as skateboarding and BMX biking. There’s even talk of bringing in a wave pool to hold surfing competitions, which Garcetti hinted at in his speech at the Business Forecast. Tourism impact While the Olympics won’t spur investment in any new high-profile infrastructure projects, VICA President and LA 2028 Board Member Stuart Waldman said it should provide extra incentive to complete existing Valley public transportation projects, including upgrades to the Orange Line and construction of the Sepulveda Transit Corridor. He added that several hotel projects slated for the area also aim to be finished in time for the Games. Primarily, Waldman expects the Olympics to be a boon for the Valley’s tourism and hospitality industries. “It’s going to bring people to the Valley and create a lot of economic output,” he said. “People are going to stay at hotels and go to restaurants – in between these events, you get hungry and go walk around the neighborhood.” According to an economic impact report commissioned by the LA 2028, the Games will increase gross economic output by up to $11.2 billion and create nearly 80,000 new full-time jobs. The report, conducted by Beacon Economics and the University of California – Riverside, was put together as part of the city’s original Olympic pitch for 2024. As a result, the numbers reflect projections for holding the Games in 2024 instead 2028, but LA 2028 said the numbers are still broadly accurate. “There is little doubt that hosting the Olympics is an enormous boost for a local economy – both in the short term as driven by activity surrounding the events themselves, and in the long term given how these events raise the global profile of the region,” said Christopher Thornberg, founding partner of Beacon Economics and director of the UC Riverside School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development, in a statement. “The worry is always that these benefits come at too high a cost, but because Los Angeles already has many of the assets needed for a successful Olympic experience, the upside is far greater than it would be for many other cities.” Civic pride catalyst Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College in Northhampton, Mass. who studies the Olympics’ effect on host cities, agreed that L.A. should be able to recoup the relatively small $5.3 billion in expenses through sponsorships, licensing and funding from the International Olympic Committee. But he remains skeptical of the report’s claim of a large-scale economic boost. “Independent economic studies don’t support that hosting the Olympics has that kind of benefit these commissioned reports claim,” he said. Zimablist said this in part because such reports tend to overlook the fact that a large portion of the income generated during the games goes to hotels and restaurants headquartered elsewhere, which in turn siphons money away from the local economy. He added that much of the promised new job growth often comes in the form of temporary positions instead of lasting employment. Even if the financial benefits may be overstated, Zimbalist believes hosting the Olympics could instill a sense of civic pride and excitement among Angelenos. “The best way to look at it is as a breakeven event financially that is likely to have a positive psychic or socio-cultural effect for the city of Los Angeles,” he said. Waldman at VICA foresees another non-financial benefit of hosting the games. According to the LA 2028 bid, one of the few permanent structures at the Valley Sports Park could be the aquatic slalom course. Waldman hopes the Valley community can take advantage of the course and that it inspires a future generations of athletes. “In 25 years, I can envision someone from Lake Balboa participating in the Olympic kayak event and hopefully winning,” he said.

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