Olympic Facilities Not Happening (Updated 3-29-10)
UPDATE (March 29, 2010): According to the Teton Valley News, representatives from Funding Partners reported that the 3 Olympic projects did not receive funding and will not be moving forward in the valley. As you may recall from the public Q&A session in Victor last month, representatives from Funding Partners reported that the $70,000,000 anonymous grant was scheduled to be awarded between February 15th and February 28th. The reps did disclose that 2 of the 3 Teton Valley projects had already received their proposed funding, and they were simply awaiting the final award by the end of February. To date, Funding Partners has not submitted any further application materials to the County or the City of Victor.
Funding Partners International has approached the county to discuss building a series of Olympic training facilities in our valley. The details are are still very hazy, but the gist of it goes like this: Funding Partners has put in for a grant to fund 3 projects located on 3 different properties in our valley: an Olympic training center where the Driggs Centre business park is located, an Olympic housing village in the defunct Phase 2 of Teton Creek Resort, and a business complex in downtown Victor. The source of the grant is anonymous right now, but we do know that it is private funding. The funds will be awarded by the end of February, and if Funding Partners receives the award, it will total over $70,000,000 to purchase the 3 properties and complete these 3 projects. The catch? According to Funding Partners, all 3 of these projects must be entirely completed within 12 months of the award – or March of 2011!
These facilities could kick-start a whole new economic base for the community, but we all need to clearly understand the accompanying benefits and liabilities.
Who is Funding Partners?
Funding Partners is an Illinois-based corporation that was filed on January 11, 2010, and is managed by Efstathios "Steve" Regopoulos and Alan Schmitz. According to their website, they were formed to assemble meaningful, humanitarian projects throughout the world.
Project 1 – Olympic training center at Driggs Centre business park:
Three years ago, the Driggs Centre business park was approved out along 1000E just south of the gravel pits located east of Driggs. This spot zone has created much consternation from the neighbors over the years, and the road infrastructure, water system, and off-site road improvements still remain incomplete to this day. Now Funding Partners International has approached the county to discuss building an Olympic training center on the property instead. This could be a positive change over the industrial and manufacturing uses that are currently allowed in the business park.
There are few specifics at this time, but the applicant’s narrative describes potentially building a 170,000+ square foot facility on a 5-acre parcel on the west edge of Driggs Centre business park. There is not yet a site plan or other overall details, but there was mention of a profit-sharing arrangement with some to-be-determined local charitable foundations. It is also unclear if the City of Driggs has sewer capacity for this project, but the water would be provided by a to-be-finished on-site water system. A facility of this magnitude brings the following issues to mind:
- Appropriateness of the location
- Traffic impacts along 1000E, 2000S, Ski Hill Rd, Stateline Rd, and Highway 33
- Impacts to dark skies
- Facility design and screening
- Operating costs and economic sustainability
Because this is a use not previously allowed in the M1 zone, the training complex must be approved through the public hearing process with the county. (See meeting schedule below)
Project 2 – Olympic housing village at Teton Creek Resort:
Funding Partners proposes to build an Olympic housing village on 13.5 acre-property that is the unfinished Phase 2 of Teton Creek Resort, located along Ski Hill and Stateline Roads, just east of Driggs. There is not yet a site plan for how this housing would be designed. It is also unclear if the City of Driggs has sewer capacity for this project, or whether these units would be short term rentals or open to purchase. There was mention in the prospectus of affordable or attainable housing on-site, but that is also unconfirmed at this time.
Project 3 – The Victor Olympic complex on the old cheese factory property:
Finally, Funding Partners proposes to build a commercial complex on the old cheese factory property in downtown Victor. There is not yet a site plan, but the proposed business model is to have a series of buildings to house supportive medical services for training athletes. This would include coaches, trainers, physical therapists, etc. Like the other 2 projects, the details are still very unclear, and it is unknown if Victor has the sewer capacity for this project. There would also potentially be housing on the second or third stories of this business complex.
Who reviews Funding Partners' projects?
Both the housing village and the training center are proposed in the rural county, and are thus under the county's jurisdiction. The training facility is not a permitted use in the Manufacturing Zone of Driggs Centre, so this proposal will have to go through the required notice and hearing procedures with the county. The housing village however, is a permitted use within Teton Creek Resort's development entitlement, so there will be no public hearing to comment on this project. The Victor project is within the jurisdiction of Victor, and it is unclear if there will be an opportunity for a hearing to comment on the design of this project.
Who currently owns these 3 properties?
According to the county GIS records, both the Teton Creek Resort and cheese factory properties are owned by Douglas Investments LLC, a Victor-based company managed by David Douglas. The Driggs Centre property is primarily owned by several different Illinois and Idaho-based companies that are managed by either David Douglas or Steve Regopoulos. According to the prospectus, these 3 properties will all be bought out by Funding Partners and developed within the required 12-month period.
Who will own these facilities once they are built?
This is a good question that remains to be answered. Presumably, Funding Partners will own these facilities.
What happens if the facilities are not built by the deadline?
This is another good question. Because the source of the grants (and their rules/guidelines) are unknown at this time, we are left to speculation. Funding Partners maintains there are severe financial penalties for projects that are not completed by the deadline. It is unknown what these penalties are, or what will happen if the deadline tolls, the funding is lost, but the buildings are only partially completed. Will there be a levy to finish them? Will they be sold off? It would be helpful to study other previously funded projects to get an idea of their success rate, and what happened to them if they ran out of time to complete their projects. However, at this time, no previously funded projects are known.
How much does it cost to run a facility like this?
Yet another great question that should be answered. What is the expected overhead to run a 170,000+ square foot facility? Who will incur the liabilities if there are any losses? It would be helpful to look at the operating and maintenance cost of other similar recreation centers.
Will the facilities be an "official" U.S. Olympic training center?
Not right now. The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) governs all Olympic-related activities in the country. While the prospectus describes the facilities as an "official USOC sanctioned Olympic Training Center," the USOC has not granted any approvals. It seems like the idea is to build the recreation center to Olympic standards, and perhaps be approved by the USOC some time in the future.
When are the next meetings?
- Tuesday, February 2nd at Driggs City Hall – CANCELLED: An informal presentation of the 3 projects was scheduled before Driggs City Council, but this has now been cancelled. The developer's representatives might present to City Council at their next meeting in 2 weeks. We'll keep you posted.
- Thursday, February 4th at the Victor City Hall – CANCELLED:
The developer's representatives will host a community meeting at the Victor City Hall to answer questions and receive public input about all three of the projects. This meeting has been temporarily postponed; we'll update you as soon as we have more information.
- Tuesday, February 23rd – CANCELLED:
Public hearings before Teton County Planning & Zoning Commission to add "Recreation Facility" to the county land use chart and review a conditional use permit (CUP) for the Olympic training center. Please note that this is only a hearing on the training center, and not the other 2 projects.This hearing has been postponed until the CUP application has been submitted, but we will update you as soon as more details are available.
- Monday, March 22nd – CANCELLED: This was supposed to be the tentative date for public hearings before the Board of County Commissioners to add "Recreation Facility" to the county land use chart. We will update you as soon as more details are available.
How can I learn more?
You can review the file at the Teton County courthouse in Driggs or contact the County Planning Department at (208) 354-2593 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To date, there is no information on file at the City of Victor, but you can still contact the planning staff to discuss the Victor project: (208) 787-2940 or email@example.com. We have also uploaded some documents and links for you to view:
- Early sketch plan of the training facility
- Developer's summary of the project
- A link to the development company, Funding Partners International
As always, you can also stop by the VARD office or call us if you have any questions or would like more information.