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Corridor communities await Whistler’s decision

Preliminary talks begin with VANOC as potential backup sites



Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland confirmed this week that he has been talking to VANOC about the Paralympic ice arena coming to his town.

He stressed however that the discussions have been very preliminary and that ultimately the decision on where this facility will go lies in Whistler’s hands.

"We have had conversations with VANOC and with Whistler just to find out what the parameters would be, and the requirements of the facility, but just very general discussions," said Sutherland this week. "Again, right now the arena is in Whistler, it belongs to Whistler. If that changes, it changes. I think VANOC is just doing good homework, and good preparation."

Vancouver Organizing Committee spokesperson Renée Smith-Valade confirmed those discussions have taken place in the last month. And in recent weeks Pemberton representatives have also indicated an interest in building the facility in their town.

"They have (both) communicated with us that they are interested and, it’s only prudent, given that right now Whistler is determining whether or not it will remain the host, that we would have some preliminary exploratory discussions with those two communities," said Smith-Valade. "But very clearly this is a facility that in our minds, remains in Whistler until such time as Whistler indicates otherwise."

She reiterated that the ball is in Whistler’s court to decide.

The time for Whistler to make that decision is drawing near as the late July/early August deadline fast approaches.

Phone calls to several Whistler councillors this week indicate that the discussions on a proposed $40 million ice arena/multiplex centre have been ongoing. They could not, however, comment on the situation because the discussions to date have been in camera, or private.

Councillor Gord McKeever did say that council is not being indecisive as the decision comes down to the wire, rather they are weighing all the possibilities.

"Of all the planning this has been the one that’s the slowest to come out and the reason it is is because we want to do what’s viable," said McKeever. "It’s not indecision. It’s genuine concern.

"The core challenge is two-fold. It’s delivering an amenity that’s not costing… more than it’s funded for. And there’s also the concern of the white elephant type legacy.

The Olympic bid book details the facility. It is to be a 3,500 to 5,000-seat Entertainment Complex/Multipurpose facility which will host the Paralympic sledge hockey events.

VANOC will put up $20 million in seed money for the $40 million facility. Since those numbers were published more than two years ago, Olympic construction costs have risen in the realm of 40 per cent. But that doesn’t mean the seed funding will increase by 40 per cent.