The Dallas metroplex has proven itself to be an increasingly viable host of major events in recent years. While there were some hiccups associated with the 2011 Super Bowl, this year’s Final Four was by all accounts a success, and the city is also angling to be the host city of the 2016 Republican National Convention. All of those are as high-profile as events in the U.S. get—which may be part of why the city is also trying to take on a major international event. Namely, the 2024 Summer Olympics.
The process of selecting an Olympics city is a long and involved one, and Dallas, which put a bid in with the U.S. Olympic Committee, is reportedly one of seven that the USOC is considering.
The other cities believed to still be in contention are Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The USOC hasn’t confirmed which cities are still hopefuls and isn’t planning to publicize which ones make the June cut.
Greg Staley, a spokesman for the U.S. Travel Association, said he couldn’t think of anything else comparable to the Olympics or what it can do for a city’s reputation.
“It’s a very significant moment for Dallas and for all the other cities that are shortlisted to advance,” he said. “It sends a very clear signal that it’s a destination that’s capable of and prepared to welcome the world. … The Olympics would create a lasting impression for generations.”
The Dallas Morning News over the weekend shared some of the details for Dallas’ plan for the games, and they are extremely ambitious—centering the Olympic Village in Fair Park, and hosting events throughout the Metroplex:
In the proposal, an Olympic Village would be created near Fair Park and house about 15,000. Those units would be sold to the public afterward.
A renovated Cotton Bowl would probably host track and field events. Sports that require less seating — such as pingpong and badminton — could be played at some existing Fair Park buildings, given renovations.
American Airlines Center, Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, the Trinity River corridor, Toyota Stadium in Frisco and existing and proposed facilities at Southern Methodist University would all be major event sites.
Wood said he would expect AT&T Stadium to be used for some of the largest-attended events. That would include gymnastics and the medal rounds of high-profile sports, such as basketball and boxing.
All of this is plenty exciting to dream about, if you’re in Dallas or the surrounding area: A renovated Cotton Bowl would be a significant project, and housing for 15,000 in an updated Fair Park would probably check a few tabs off the city’s to-do list. Jerry Jones, meanwhile, would surely love to see his (and AT&T’s) towering monument to the combination of sports and money host a major event on the international stage, for the many people in parts of the world where they don’t care about the Super Bowl. And letting Frisco in on the action? The cup runneth over.
Of course, that would make this a very commuter-centric Olympics. The trip from Frisco’s Toyota Stadium—where FC Dallas currently play—to Arlington and the Cowboys’ home stadium is a whopping forty miles along a toll road. The Cotton Bowl is over twenty miles to AT&T Stadium, and more than thirty miles to Frisco. In a highway-centric city like Dallas, that means that a lot of international visitors would have to invest in rental cars.
Of course, Dallas could presumably promise to build trains connecting Toyota Stadium, AT&T Stadium, and Fair Park in the event that it host the Olympics ten years from now. That might mitigate the concern, transforming it from “problem” to “minor inconvenience.” Last winter’s Sochi Olympics—which are probably not regarded by most as a high-point in Olympics infrastructure—had a thirty-mile gap between the events held in the “Coastal Cluster,” where the ice sports events were held, and the “Mountain Cluster,” where the snow sports were held, connected by a train that promised travel times of less than half an hour. Those were for different types of events, though, while both AT&T Stadium and Toyota Stadium would likely host similar sports.
Nonetheless, there are exciting prospects for Dallas’ infrastructure, should the city be tapped to host the Olympics. A train from the city to the Cowboys’ stadium—which, it should be noted, is wild speculation on our part and not mentioned in the report—would be a boon for the 100,000 ticketholders to the team’s games and the other events at the venue, while housing capable of hold 15,000 people in Fair Park that the city could sell to the public after the Games are over would be a big deal.
That’s a big “could,” though, as the best laid plans of Olympic Village hosts don’t often work out as intended. It’s far too early to judge Sochi’s future—but let’s take a look at how things have worked out for host cities like London (2012):
The athletes’ village is still being transformed into the East Village. At nearby East Wick and Sweetwater, based at the west edge of the park, there are already signs that the process will yield less housing than originally pledged. Other promises, like the Olympic Museum due to open this year, have simply been quietly dropped.
[T]he athletes’ village has not fared so well. The City of Vancouver had to take over financing for the 1,100-unit village after the developer stopped payment on its construction loan due to cost overruns and the 2008 financial crisis. The city has sold most, if not all, of the units, but it expects to lose nearly $300 million.
East London certainly saw much-needed public transportation improvements following the Games, and venues built in Vancouver for the games are still in use. But while all the glamor of hosting the games is appealing on the outside, it’s best to temper some of the expectations as those dreams become reality.
“Reality” is still a long way off for the Dallas Olympics, in any case—even assuming that the next stage in the USOC’s process reveals that Dallas is still in the mix to be part of the U.S. bid, there are a whole lot of other countries who’d like to host the Games. By 2024, it’ll have been 22 years since the Salt Lake City Games, so whatever U.S. city qualifies would have a legit shot, but let’s not make too many plans for 2024 just yet.
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