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Arena proposal in limbo

Whistler waits for province, province points to VANOC



Top Whistler and Olympic officials met in an evening meeting this week to discuss the fate of the resort’s Paralympic arena.

The meeting included VANOC CEO John Furlong and executive vice president of construction Dan Doyle, along with Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed, Administrator Bill Barratt and Olympic executive director Jim Godfrey.

They gathered Monday evening in Squamish, the halfway point between the two host cities, after Whistler’s mayor spent the day fielding questions from the media about the sledge hockey arena.

It is still not clear what was decided that night, if anything, but the face-to-face meeting with the top players reveals the level of concern about the fate of the Paralympic arena in Whistler.

There is a new proposal in the works but the details have not yet been made public as delicate negotiations between the partners continue.

This week VANOC, the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the province all passed the buck when asked who had to make a decision on the new proposal associated with the arena.

"The minute you start talking about the what ifs, then you have to start negotiating with the other partners and that’s where we are now," said Melamed. "What we’re hoping to do is to get the alternatives to a point that we can have them solidified or committed to enough to take to the community and to council and make a final decision."

He said he’s waiting for the province to decide on those alternatives and said they were working with Economic Development Minister Colin Hansen and with the federal minister responsible for the Olympics, David Emerson.

"We’re not the masters of our destiny here," the mayor told the Whistler Rotary Club Tuesday morning. "It is to the wire. Everybody is on the edge of their seats."

But Minister Hansen, in a phone interview with Pique Newsmagazine Tuesday afternoon, said it’s not up to the province. He said the ball is in VANOC’s court.

"This new ask that’s come from Whistler… VANOC and Whistler would probably love it if we say ‘sure, here’s more money’ but we don’t have more money in our envelope to provide," said Hansen.

"What we’ve said back to VANOC is that we’re not prepared to consider a request for increased obligations over and above what we’re already obligated to that would take us over the $580 million (Olympic venue construction budget)."

VANOC released a media statement via e-mail with comments from Cathy Priestner Allinger, executive vice president of sport, Paralympic Games and venue management.

"Until such time as the RMOW makes a final decision on the construction of the arena and out of respect for the process, it would be inappropriate to engage in further public discussions or to speculate on the alternatives under consideration."