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CN opens coffers for Squamish conference centre

Roundhouse to be biggest centre in corridor



What's in a name? For starters, about $1.25 million.

The Roundhouse and Conference Centre will carry the CN Rail name come completion this August. A slew of corporate and political dignitaries braved a brisk morning last week to amass on the platform of Mac Norris Station at the West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish for the announcement.

"This is a real railroading community, and we're very proud to be a part of it," said David McLean, chairman of the CN board of directors.

According to company lore, CN has been active in Squamish since 1912, when the town was home central for the Pacific Great Eastern Railway. That entity later morphed into B.C. Rail. In 2004 CN signed a long-term lease to take over B.C. Rail's operations.

"Any student of Canadian history understands how important the railways are and have been to the development of this country," said B.C. Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon, who, along with local MLA and Minister of State for Intergovernmental Relations Joan McIntyre, came along to share in all the handshaking and backslapping - and to remind everyone that the seed money was provincial, and $2 million in scope.

"Why we're here is all about moving ahead and focusing on an important part of British Columbia's history," said Don Evans, president and CEO of the West Coast Railway Association.

Though now just a metal frame, the building, once finished, will cover 22,000 square feet, which park officials say makes it the largest meeting and conference centre in the corridor. Capacity is approximately 1,200, with a dining facility that can service 750.

Totalling $6.25 million, the building's costs are nearly covered, including the installation of geothermal infrastructure, the first well of which has already been done. Aside from the seed money, an anonymous park donor shelled out $2 million, and the park board is hoping to rustle up the remaining funds through fundraising and more donations.

"Today is special because it lifts this facility and this community to a new level," said Mayor Greg Gardner

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