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Symbolic arch from 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City will be moved to new home

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SALT LAKE CITY - A towering arch that is one of the most recognizable symbols left from the 2002 Winter Olympics is being moved off the University of Utah campus and back into Salt Lake City.

The city will become the new owner of the arch after it is disassembled over the next few weeks into 4,000 pieces by the University of Utah at a cost of $116,000. Salt Lake City will house the pieces in storage until it settles on a new home, a process that could take more than a year, said city spokesman Art Raymond.

The arch had stood the last 11 years outside Rice-Eccles Stadium after being downtown during the Olympic games, where it served as the backdrop during medal ceremonies.

The university had been talking with officials from the city and the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation for months about moving the arch, which was never supposed to stay permanently outside the stadium, university spokeswoman Maria O'Mara said.

The Olympic visitor centre and theatre was moved from the same spot last year to Park City. The Olympic cauldron will remain there, O'Mara said.

She dismissed talk that it's being moved to make room for expansion of Rice-Eccles Stadium, where the Utes play football games. O'Mara said there are no expansion plans at this time.

Salt Lake City will take a measured approach to find a place that can accommodate the size of the arch — which is 36-feet tall and 72-feet wide — while displaying it properly, city spokesman Art Raymond said.

"We won't be in a hurry to do this. This will be about making a thoughtful decision and allowing for ample public involvement," Raymond said. "Obviously, we don't want to move it twice."

Raymond said the relocation project will likely cost several hundred thousand dollars because a new base for the arch will have to be built and security perimeters erected to protect it. That's not even including the reassembly of the massive arch. The city plans to look for private organizations and businesses to help foot the bill, he said.

The city is also going to consider long-term maintenance costs and how to cover them, Raymond said. The university spent about $100,000 a month to maintain the Olympic visitors centre area outside Rice-Eccles that included the arch, a visitor centre and theatre and cauldron, O'Mara said. Most of the costs were spent on utilities to power the building and light the arch and cauldron, she said.

During the 2002 Winter Olympics, the arch lit up in different colours and opened and closed like a mechanical curtain, serving as a dramatic centerpiece for introductions of the day's medal-winning athletes. Utah's desert arches inspired Chuck Hoberman's design, for which the arch is named.

The arch no longer opens and closes and is now only a static monument. But it still holds a special place for Utah residents who relish their memories of hosting the Olympics, Raymond said.

"We're excited about being caretakers," Raymond said. "This is one of the most memorable icons from our 2002 Olympic Games."

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