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$10 million to run Whistler venues before Games

Operating funds to come from interest earned on Games Operating Trust

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Roughly $10 million has been earmarked to operate two Olympic venues in Whistler before the 2010 Games.

Five million dollars is slated for the operation of the Whistler Sliding Centre, while approximately $4.5 million will be needed to operate the Whistler Nordic venue.

“I can tell you what we’ve estimated the operating costs for the sliding and Nordic centres to be over the next three years, two and a half seasons,” said Cathy Priestner-Allinger, executive vice president of sport and venue management for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the Games (VANOC), during a July 26 media tour.

“It’s about $5 million here… and about $4.5 million at the Nordic.”

It is not clear how much each venue will cost to run on an annual basis. Operations are slated to begin as soon as December 2007 and run until the Games, in February 2010.

VANOC could not confirm this week if that money covered summer operations or simply the winter months in both venues.

But it will cover test events leading up to the Games, opportunities for athlete training, public access and tours and possibly some recreational use.

For example, the Whistler Nordic Centre will hire 20 to 30 people to run ski school, equipment rentals and ticket sales in the coming winter seasons.

“We will open this as a normal public venue, open from 9 to 5,” said John Aalberg, VANOC’s director of Nordic sports. “You can come… and buy a trail ticket and ski.”

The price of those tickets has not yet been determined he said, but it will be a standard cross-country fee, comparable to Cypress Mountain.

“We’ll probably have close to 30 km of trails when we open this year,” he added. “Our goal is to do as much (work to get ready) as we can.”

Priestner-Allinger called the $10 million budget the core base operation, which includes limited public programs. VANOC’s main priority however is putting on the test events and giving athletes the opportunity to train on their home turf.

“We haven’t considered a comprehensive full blown operation prior to the Games,” she said. “So there will be opportunities post Games. It’s just in light of what our priority is for VANOC… it’s quite disruptive to start a lot of programs that you have to shut down periodically because of test events and the Olympic Games.

“It would be our expectation that any programs we would put in post-Games would be self sufficient so the revenues coming from those programs should offset the costs. So the budgets may go up but the revenue side should also go up to balance up.”

The $10 million to pay for those operations from the end of 2007 until the Olympics in February 2010 will come from the Games Operating Trust (GOT).

“There’s been a general agreement that the operating funds would come out of the trust and now it’s a matter of working through the detail and the process for which it would be drawn out,” explained Priestner-Allinger.

The GOT was established in 2004 to hold, direct and manage a $110 million Legacy Endowment Fund.

The province contributed $55 million to that fund in March 2004, while the federal government kicked in another $55 million one year later. Since then it has grown to $133.6 million, as valued at the end of March 2007.

It is from the $23.6 million in interest that the two Whistler venues will be funded. Money is also expected to be channeled to the Whistler Athlete Centre.

At the end of this year the fund will be divided as follows:

• 40 per cent for the sliding centre and Nordic centre;

• 40 per cent for the Richmond speed skating oval, and

• 20 per cent contingency.

“The (20 per cent contingency) that was unallocated is very much to get a sense of the operation over the next couple of years,” said Priestner-Allinger.

After the Games the venue operations will move from VANOC’s hands to the Whistler Legacies Society. Business plans for the venues are now being reviewed.

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