The state of Maryland has become one of five finalists bidding to host the U.S. Olympic Festival in 1993, 1994 or 1995, an event that local organizers predict could have a $200 million impact on the state.
Maryland, Denver, Miami, St. Louis and San Antonio were selected from among 10 candidates by the U.S. Olympic Committee's board of directors at its weekend meetings in Durham, N.C. A USOC panel will visit the five areas in November and December and a decision on which three will host the festivals will be made Feb. 2-3 in Dallas.
The festival, a 10-day, 37-sport competition held every non-Olympic year, is the nation's largest regularly scheduled multisport event. Begun in 1978 in Colorado Springs, it attracts prospective Olympians and the occasional Olympic veteran. It was held in Minneapolis this summer and will be in Los Angeles in 1991.
Maryland officials have submitted a proposal in which the College Park and Baltimore County campuses of the University of Maryland and the Towson State campus would serve as the three "hubs" of the festival, said James Narron, chairman of the Maryland State Games and one of the organizers trying to get the festival to the state. Events would be held at various sites throughout the region, including Capital Centre, Baltimore Arena and the Savage River in western Maryland.
Narron said the festival would have a $10 million budget. To meet costs, $1 million would come from the state, $4 million from ticket sales and $5 million from corporations, other sponsors and donations. Because of the influx of athletes and fans and the potential for attracting future sports events to the area, officials say a festival could pump $200 million into the state over time.
"We're ecstatic we've become finalists," Narron said yesterday, "and they haven't even looked at our best part yet."
That, Narron said, is the infrastructure of transportation, security, hotels and support services that already is in place.
"They know we've been there," he said. "The facilities are ready for us."