If construction wraps up at Whistler Olympic Plaza (also known under the Games-time moniker of Celebration Plaza) in the spring, the community will have a new arts and cultural hub at its disposal next summer.
Doti Niedermayer, executive director of the Whistler Arts Council (WAC), envisions the new site opening up a "whole new world of possibility" in terms of bringing local artists and artisans into the village. And without adding significantly to WAC's already stretched operating budget.
"I've seen the design go through some changes and some various additions," Niedermayer said. "I've kind of had an idea of what we'd want to use it for, and also what the arts community would want to use it for. For us, that's always been really exciting because given that it would be a space that is run by the municipality, we would be able to implement things like a Thursday night farmers market or craft fair."
Over the years, the arts council has seen a lot of demand from local artists and artisans interested in expanding the Sunday Farmers Market to a regular weeknight market in the summer.
"There is no space for that," Niedermayer said. "It doesn't really work anywhere else. You can't do it in Village Square, you can't really do it in Skier's Plaza, so the Olympic Plaza has always been, for us, the new space that could house that kind of thing."
A regular summer market would create animation at another end of the village while giving visitors the opportunity to connect with local artists and artisans.
After numerous revisions and brainstorming sessions with community stakeholders over the years (original plans included an outdoor skating rink, buildings for artisans and an ambitious iconic roof structure), Whistler Olympic Plaza will feature an open grass lawn, performance pavilion, outdoor performance spaces, an accessible playground and public art celebrating the 2010 Winter Games.
"This is the outcome of a long process that involved the community and the merchants and all sorts of advisory committees," said Jan Jansen, General Manager of Resort Experience for the Resort Municipality of Whistler. "So we've got a space that is really programmatically flexible and is going to accommodate a number of uses."
The overall budget for the plaza is $13.67 million, with $4.2 million coming from VANOC, $5 million from the Government of Canada, $ 4.02 million from the RMOW through the hotel tax, and $450,000 from private and charitable organizations.
At a council meeting in June Martin Pardoe, RMOW's Manager of Resort Parks and Open Space Planning, described the site as having one of the most advanced outdoor performance venues west of Toronto. This performance pavilion will have two stages, one large and one small, under a roof. It will accommodate 650 people sitting or 3,000 people standing.