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Corridor could lose if Whistler says no

Location of sledge hockey arena rests with VANOC if Whistler turns it down



If Whistler gives up the opportunity to build the multi-million dollar Paralympic arena, there will be no safeguards to ensure the building remains within the corridor.

Even though Whistler has been instrumental in putting together a confidential deal that sees the arena go to Squamish, while the resort gets other perks, there is no way for Whistler to ensure that deal goes through.

The Vancouver Organizing Committee confirmed this week that the arena’s fate ultimately rests in their hands, once Whistler makes its decision.

"If Whistler chooses not to build it we have to look at what our other options are," said VANOC spokesperson Renée Smith-Valade. "There isn’t any absolute requirement to put it in the corridor but there are options clearly that exist there that we’ve taken into consideration and that we’ve been made aware of but we would want to make sure that we’ve looked at all of the possible options inside and outside of the corridor."

When asked if VANOC could forgo building a new multi-million dollar complex and instead use an existing facility to host to the sledge hockey events for the Paralympic Games, Smith-Valade said: "There are options all over the place. We have multiple options. I’m not going to give a lot of detail on where they are but suffice to say we have options inside and outside of the Sea to Sky corridor."

Under the Games Venue Agreement of December 2002, Whistler can choose to take $20 million from VANOC and build an arena (estimated at that time to cost double that) or $2 million from VANOC and give up the arena altogether.

After examining the costs of a traditional arena, the municipality came to the conclusion that to build the arena and operate it over the long term could be detrimental to the resort and could ultimately cost taxpayers too much money.

And so, for the past seven months, the Resort Municipality of Whistler has been working on a deal that would see the arena move to Squamish, along with $8 million from the Vancouver Organizing Committee.

The remaining VANOC money, $12 million, would stay in Whistler to build a second ice sheet at Meadow Park and enhance the athlete centre.

One of the reasons for pursuing the Squamish deal was to help out a corridor partner, said Councillor Gordon McKeever. Not only does Squamish have better soils and a larger population to use the arena and support a Junior A hockey team he said, this was also Whistler’s way of bringing their corridor partner into the Games to reap some Olympic benefits.

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