Thursday, June 08, 2000

Vehr looks for Olympic Village site

He asks city to help study Blue Ash airport, IAMS

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Nick Vehr wants to make Cincinnati the home of the 2012 Olympic Games. But first, Mr. Vehr has to find a home for about 15,000 Olympic athletes, coaches and officials for two weeks that summer.

        Mr. Vehr, president of Cincinnati 2012 Inc., is asking the city to help review two sites that could be used to build a complex of single-family homes and apartments to serve as an Olympic Village.

        The trick is to figure out if either site is feasible before December, when Cincinnati 2012 has to make its official bid to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).

        He would also like help in evaluating the possibility of a recreational sports complex along the city's western riverfront.

        Those sites are the Blue Ash airport, and the IAMS Research Park and Makete wah Country Club, adjacent properties near Paddock and Seymour roads in Bond Hill. All are city-owned properties.

        Mr. Vehr said secure Olympic housing is critically important in the bid, and has been ever since the 1972 Olympics in Munich when 11 Israeli team members were murdered by terrorists.

        It is also one of the most complex aspects of the bid, he said.

        “It is for us and for every other city bidding on the games,” Mr. Vehr said. “We need to look for an opportunity to fill a pressing need in the community. In this case, that is single-family homes.”

        He would also like help in evaluating the possibility of a recreational sports complex along the city's western riverfront.

        Mr. Vehr sent a letter to Cincinnati City Manager John Shirey on Wednesday, asking for his staff's help in evaluating the sites on issues such as land ownership, utilities, zoning and how the new community would fit with the land-use plans for those areas.

        “It will take a lot of careful review that we, as a nonprofit, cannot and should not do alone,” Mr. Vehr said.

        Mr. Shirey, who had not read the letter, said the city has supported other projects related to the Olympics bid. The latest request would be right in line, he said.

        The city has recently completed a study on other possible uses for the Blue Ash airport and is working on a similar study for the IAMS park.

        “This is going to take a broad-based effort to make it happen, and the city is happy to help in that,” Mr. Shirey said.

        For the 1996 games in Atlanta, Georgia Tech went through two years of headaches to turn its campus into an Olympic Village.

        After the construction dust cleared and the Olympic crowds went home, the university was left with an extensive fiber-optic network, a new aquatic center, a renovated gymnasium, an Olympic Plaza and seven new apartment residence halls, said Bob Harty, executive director of communication for the school.

        “We are now one of the most wired 500 acres on the planet,” Mr. Harty said. “It has changed how we deliver education on and off campus.

        “The fiber optics, really, are the Olympics legacy here.”

        Mr. Vehr would like the legacy in Cincinnati to be more than housing. He also asked the city to help him evaluate the feasibility of the recreational sports complex.

        Bids from the eight competing U.S. cities are due Dec. 15, which will be followed by a 90-day review period. The USOC will make visits to each city during the summer and fall of 2001.

        A short list of cities will be picked in spring 2002 before a final U.S. city is selected in the fall to compete with international cities. The host city will be picked in 2005.


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