Few communities have the good fortune to host the world during an Olympic Winter Games. In 2002, Ogden, was given this opportunity by hosting the Olympic curling and downhill skiing events!
The 2002 Winter Olympic games generated an unprecedented volunteer response from the local community, and a consortium of insightful community leaders recognized this previously untapped pride and volunteer spirit was a unique asset that could be leveraged to further increase pride, sense of place, and ultimately re-brand a community eager to reclaim and reinvent its identity.
Recognizing the need to keep the volunteer spirit alive, a group of Weber County citizens, looked around with pride at what had been accomplished during the Games and were determined to see the events, venues and individuals continue to shine for decades following the Olympics. Shortly after the conclusion of the Games, they formed a 501c3 non-profit organization called the Weber Cultural Legacy Foundation. As the objectives of the organization came in to focus and attracting World Class athletic events became its primary charter, the “dba” name was changed to GOAL Foundation, with the tag line, “Get Out and Live.”
Once the GOAL Foundation was formed, the grassroots organization was given just one opportunity from Olympic organizers to email the people that volunteered at the Olympic venues in Weber County. That initial email garnered responses from almost 2,000 volunteers that were eager to continue volunteering for world-class athletic events; they just needed the events to volunteer for. The leaders of GOAL identified their mission and vision, and determined the initial objectives of the organization.
Though the mission has evolved and changed slightly over the years, the GOAL Foundation hasn’t wavered as the epicenter for getting the community connected to outdoor recreation opportunities in the greater Ogden area. GOAL encourages the community to get out, get active and get involved. GOAL promotes, produces and provides volunteer support to events in the community, and each event much meet the following objectives:
- Expose Ogden’s dynamic resources to the greater community and the world stage
- Connect communities
- Infuse economic vitality through athletics and volunteerism
- Promote healthy and vibrant lifestyles
- Provide access, visibility and exposure to athletes, spectators and volunteers
With the objectives in place and a robust mission to brand the greater Ogden area as an Outdoor Recreation Mecca, the founding members began their fundraising efforts and began to identify what events they could recruit to the greater Ogden area. Founding member, and now current Mayor of Ogden, Mike Caldwell, tells the story of having $13.00 in the GOAL bank account and driving out to South Lake Tahoe, sleeping on the hotel room floor of an XTERRA employee (for budget purposes) to talk to producers of the XTERRA event. Caldwell convinced XTERRA leadership to allow GOAL to produce a point series triathlon that could be a regional draw for off-road triathletes, and it would become the first event that the GOAL Foundation would produce.GOAL’s army of volunteers, coupled with tenacious attention to detail and Olympic-caliber production from the GOAL team, led to the most successful XTERRA point series race on the XTERRA tour. XTERRA leadership was paying attention, and after a couple of years of GOAL’s production of the point series, Team Unlimited, the producers of XTERRA, made the decision to pull the XTERRA USA National Championship from Lake Tahoe, NV and produce the event in Ogden, UT. This gave Ogden unprecedented media exposure and highlighted local recreation assets, like Snowbasin Resort, which hosted the Men’s and Women’s Olympic downhill races. Other races and events followed, and it became clear that to fully reach its potential, GOAL needed to have a steady revenue source to continue supporting these world class events that were successfully giving Ogden national exposure as an Outdoor Recreation Mecca.
During this time frame, the GOAL Foundation volunteers were already providing volunteer support to the local marathon, the Ogden Marathon. The GOAL Foundation quickly learned the keys to success:volunteers are the lifeblood of an event, and the event servicing has to be Olympic caliber in all segments of the event, from the athlete, to the volunteer, to the spectators, and the sponsors. Even if GOAL did not own the event, they treated their volunteers as if they did and made the volunteer experience the number one priority. The GOAL Foundation applied these principles to the Ogden Marathon finish line and organized it like no other group of volunteers had done previously, providing superior event producing skill, volunteer knowledge, and unprecedented athlete support. In 2006, the contract to produce the Ogden Marathon came up for bid with Ogden City, and the founding members prepared a successful proposal and won the contract. When the GOAL Foundation was awarded the bid to produce the Ogden Marathon, it became the marquee event for the organization and primary funding source for all GOAL programs. The growth of the marathon under GOAL’s leadership was an astounding success. The race grew from just shy of 1,000 runners in 2005, to an impressive 10,000 registered runners by 2015. The Ogden Marathon is the largest one-day running event in Utah, and attracts runners from 47 States and 7 Countries.The Ogden Marathon has received numerous accolades in national media, helping to firmly place Ogden on the map as an Outdoor Recreation Mecca.Most recently the Ogden Marathon was listed as one of the top 5 marathons in Shape.com, and has been a Runner’s World Top-Ten Marathons pick twice, once for scenery and once for first-time marathoners.
Even with the national attention the marathon garners, the most important impact has been on the local community and their sense of pride in place.
“The GOAL Foundation has raised the race exponentially to a world class marathon. They have taken a quiet community and given us a purpose and a reason to collectively celebrate what is right about Ogden,” Ron Remkes, Business Development, Big D Construction, Ogden, UT, and runner of all 17 Ogden Marathons.
“The Ogden Marathon is widely viewed as one of the top running events in the country, and so it is an honor for us to be associated with such great events and such a great organization as the GOAL Foundation. Not only do they drive economic development, but they also provide a lift in moral,” Rob Brough, Vice President of Marketing for Zions Bank, Presenting sponsor of the Ogden Marathon.
With the addition of the Ogden Marathon and the revenues it produced, the GOAL Foundation was able to “grow up” and start hiring staff so they could attract and support more world-class events in the greater Ogden area. It was evident by producing the marathon and receiving national exposure, and the economic and media exposure XTERRA was able to provide, that the GOAL Foundation was a key economic driver and “feather in the cap” for the city and county during their event recruiting efforts. Sara Toliver, President/CEO of the Ogden Weber Convention and Visitors Bureau said when trying to recruit events to Ogden, that “GOAL’s partnership is vital to our recruitment of world-class events we have been able to bring to Weber county. Their volunteers are known as unequivocally the best. They provide an unprecedented level of confidence to our event planners that their event will be a success in our community.”
There have been many tangible and intangible benefits associated with this event recruitment and volunteer movement. In recent years, numerous outdoor recreation companies have moved to Ogden creating hundreds of new jobs in the outdoor industry.The GOAL Foundation has consistently been noted as a major deciding factor for many of these companies to ultimately choose Ogden. These events have raised Ogden’s profile, both internally and externally, and strengthened its identity as an outdoor mecca, while successfully establishing a nationally recognized brand identity by introducing the town to thousands of athletes and spectators. Ogden City Economic Development Department reports there are now approximately 700 direct jobs in the outdoor recreation industry in Ogden, the vast majority of which were created in the last ten years.
A promotional video used by Ogden City, Mayor Caldwell, when he is asked numerous times to present in different parts of the country and tell the story of how Ogden has been able to transform its identity and attract so many outdoor companies, says it well:“In 1998, Outside Magazine ran an article on the undiscovered gems in the ski world and highlighted Snowbasin Ski Resort for complete lack of crowds and excellent ski terrain, but they felt obligated to let the reader know the price for skiing at this hidden gem was staying in the charmless town of Ogden. This was the same Outside Magazine, more than a decade later, that would proclaim Ogden as one of the 20 best towns in America.”
The accolades continue to pour in:
Most Likeable Mountain Towns – Outside Magazine
Best Main Streets in America – USA Today
Best Places for Businesses and Careers – Forbes Magazine
Top Ten Towns to Start a Business – Forbes Magazine
Just to name a few…
The GOAL Foundation story is one of passion, collaboration, and tenacious dedication. It is a story about harnessing opportunity. It is a story of a community changed by the Olympics, and how a few passionate people proactively captured that volunteer spirit to cement a legacy of excellence within the community. The founders of GOAL Foundation knew the Olympics would come and go, but the impact on the community could not be allowed to go away. They asked, what do we have? What have we done and what can be done to keep the passion of the Olympic Volunteer alive? They succeeded not just in keeping that spirit alive, but in re-branding a broken-down rail town into a vibrant, active community that continues to be a leader in world class outdoor events and the outdoor recreation industry.