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The names Eccles and Engen figured prominently in Wednesday being a banner day at Utah Olympic Park.
The Alf Engen Virtual Ski Jump, named in honor of the Norwegian ski jumper generally regarded as the father of Utah skiing, was unveiled in the museum that also bears his name. It will give visitors to the Olympic Park museum the sensation of flight, much like Engen felt in 1934 when he broke his own world record on nearby Ecker Hill.
Meanwhile, longtime Olympic supporter, banker and philanthropist Spencer F. Eccles pledged a $1 million challenge grant to entice other people to contribute to a $3 million "Big Air" campaign to retrofit the park's training pool by building seven new launch ramps at angles that serve specific winter sports aerials, moguls, freeskiing, snowboarding and big air.
"I'm 110 percent committed to the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation's continued role of sport development for Utah's youth and elite athletes," said Eccles, the percentage figure referencing an advertising catch-phrase once used by his former bank, First Security.
Eccles' commitment will be matched by the foundation, which he helped set up to manage the Olympic Park and the Utah Olympic Oval with a $76 million endowment from the Salt Lake Organizing Committee after the 2002 Winter Games.
"Spencer Eccles continues to demonstrate his unwavering support to deepen Utah's commitment to Olympic winter sport while challenging other stakeholders and philanthropists to join him in the effort," said Colin Hilton, the Olympic Legacy Foundation's president and CEO.
He said the foundation's fundraising partners are looking locally and nationally to secure the remaining $1 million needed to complete the Big Air Project by next June.
This upgrade, said U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team Foundation executive Trisha Worthington, "will impact international, national and local athletes for decades to come."
Back in the museum, the Virtual Ski Jump designed and installed by JDH Group was opened along with an exhibit honoring Utahns who won medals at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games and a display of ski fashions from 1968 to 1998. Barbara Alley Simon donated the ski apparel, accessories and equipment.
Calling it "a milestone day for the museum," Alf Engen Ski Museum Foundation Chairman David Vandehei said "these three informative and entertaining exhibits will keep our museum fresh."
Alf's son and daughter-in-law, Alan and Barbara Engen, provided seed money for the Virtual Ski Jump, which was completed with private donations. Museum visitors get to choose a set of jumping skis, then stand on a platform looking at a screen that shows them looking down the launch ramp of a big jump. As the film rolls and the skier descends the ramp, weight changes and takeoff movements by the participant are translated by the virtual ride into flying distances.
The ride also takes photographs of participants in action, shots that can be sent directly to Facebook, said museum director Connie Nelson.
The celebrated Olympic and Paralympic medalists are:
• Ted Ligety, gold, skiing giant slalom.
• Steve Holcomb, bronze, two- and four-man bobsled.
• Sage Kotsenburg, gold, slopestyle snowboarding.
• Joss Christensen, gold, slopestyle skiing.
• Danelle Umstead and guide Rob Umstead, gold, Paralympic Alpine skiing super combined.