By Amy Fendley AlpenRock House, the $6.6 million entertainment centre planned for the space below Starbucks and Eddie Bauer, has received its development permit and a go-ahead nod from the municipality. After spending nine months trying to get a permit approved for the Swiss alpine entertainment village, senior vice president Nigel Protter says the AlpenRock team is excited to finally get things going. Most of the architecture, engineering and design work has already been completed. "We’ve been OKed for our preliminary, stage-one building permit to begin construction, which will start immediately," says Protter. "Some site work has already been done and fabrication of the chalets is well under way in Switzerland. We’re all very excited and happy to be starting... it’s been a long road." Plans for the 38,000 square foot multi-purpose space, which could potentially employ 200, continue to evolve. Included so far is a 200-seat theatre, bowling alley, billiard tables, a restaurant and bar, all under a simulated night-time mountain sky, complete with wafts of simulated Swiss alpine-scented wind. The AlpenRock House concept — a village within a village — was pioneered in Zurich, where the facility includes an authentic 200-year-old Swiss mountain chalet. The name stands for event and communications gastronomy. It focuses on man, a desire for traditional values in an environment adjusted to current times, and a desire for human contact and for distraction from everyday life. The soon-to-be subterranean entertainment emporium has plans to promote ecology in Whistler by establishing a charity foundation called "Save the Mountains." The foundation will be dedicated to the preservation of the local environment. When AlpenRock opens, every customer visit will generate a fixed donation to the foundation. The fund will then be spent on small scale projects incorporating environmental education, restoration and conservation. Protter says the fund will become a local tradition. "Our goal is to create an on-going program of boot-strap funding, matching funds, and volunteer person-power, alone and in concert with other locally operated corporate entities, which like us, wish to give back to the environment." Protter says that the ideal projects must be apolitical, local in scale, non-commercial, community-involving, affordable, meaningful and show excellent potential for near-term affect. The joint-venture partners in the Whistler AlpenRock enterprise are MagiCorp Inc. of Toronto (with leisure and entertainment projects in Japan, Europe, Russia, China and North America), and Flughafen-Restaurant AG (FRZ), Zurich. FRZ is part of conglomerate that includes Swissair, the national airline of Switzerland, and Allders, a world-wide duty-free and gift store operation, with combined annual revenues of over $7 billion. The Canadian-Swiss joint venture has exclusive rights to transplant the AlpenRock House concept to North America and Japan. Since the original, 15,000 square foot Zurich complex opened in March, 1996, it has been booked to its 1,000 person capacity every weekend and grossing annual revenues of nearly $10 million. AlpenRock is expected to open its Whistler doors sometime this summer.