Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

Los Angeles city officials were asked Monday to help finance this summer’s 2015 Special Olympics World Games, with Councilman Tom LaBonge suggesting the city should donate $1.5 million.

Special Olympics World Games Chief Operating Officer Jeff Carr went before the City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee today to request that the city make “a cash contribution,” and asked that some city employees to be loaned out to them help fill some of the 117 positions needed to put on the event.

Carr said the Special Olympics World Games will be the largest event in the city since the 1984 Summer Olympics and will draw 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches from around the world. It will likely to be attended by President Barack Obama and foreign dignitaries, he said.

The event will begin with opening ceremonies on July 25.

Carr said Los Angeles County is donating $1.5 million, the state has earmarked $5 million in this year’s budget, and the U.S. Department of Defense is putting up at least $2.6 million into the sporting event, potentially allocating another $3.3 million.

Carr said 33,000 hotel room nights have been booked because of the event, and the Los Angeles Tourism Board commissioned a study that found $415 million would be generated as the result of the event.

Carr said they have commitments to pay for $52 million of their $70 million budget, the majority of which are coming from private philanthropies and corporations, and the hope is to have 15 to 25 percent of the cost paid by local, state and federal governments.

The committee asked staffers to study the financial impacts of the $1.5 million donation amount, which was proposed by LaBonge, and seconded by Council President Herb Wesson.

LaBonge called the contribution “very worthy,” in light of the revenue that it could create for the city.

“I’d love you to say yes today,” LaBonge said. “This is an opportunity … that would balance out in the end.”

Staffers told the committee members today that the funds could come out of surpluses in this year’s general fund budget, and potentially the city’s reserves.

However, LaBonge said that the city could budget the $1.5 million into next year’s budget for 2015-2016.

Councilman Paul Koretz, noting that Los Angeles is a “relatively broke city,” said that as important as the Special Olympics is, the city should be careful so that “we’re not digging ourselves into this hole.”

Responding to Koretz’s question about the timing of the request, city staffers said LaBonge’s Dec. 16 motion was the first time the city had been asked to provide a cash contribution.

City News Service

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