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Council concerned by centre's operating costs

Whistler Legacy Society to own and operate athletes' centre

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By Alison Taylor

Though it has just committed more funds to the Olympic athletes’ centre, council is not without its concerns about the long-term viability of the facility.

Council was privy to draft business plans for the athletes’ centre, the Nordic centre and the sliding centre at Tuesday’s closed-door meeting. That information is not available to the public.

“Right now council has a broad high level understanding of where the risks and responsibilities lie into the future in spite of the absence of a finalized business plan,” said Mayor Ken Melamed after the meeting.

The venues will be owned, managed and operated by the Whistler Legacy Society (WLS). Whistler will be one member of that society.

Council’s concerns were duly noted as part of the resolution to increase the funding to the athletes’ centre in Tuesday’s motion:

“That the support of council be subject to the recognition that council has very serious concerns on the viability and ongoing operating costs for the Athletes’ Village High Performance Centre.”

Though the sliding centre and the Nordic centre will have financial help from the Games Operating Trust (GOT), the athlete centre officially has no such funding from the trust at this time.

As of the end of March, the GOT was valued at more than $133 million — the provincial and federal governments each provided $55 million to the fund and the interest has grown over the past two years.

The fund will be divided at the end of 2007 as follows:

• 40 per cent to the Richmond Speed Skating Oval;

• 40 per cent to the Whistler Sliding Centre and the Whistler Nordic Centre; and

• 20 per cent in a contingency fund.

Mayor Ken Melamed, however, suggested Tuesday that the long-term operating costs for the athletes’ centre would come from the GOT.

“Within that 40 per cent the legacy society knows it has to support the sliding centre, the Nordic centre and the athletes’ centre because the athletes’ centre is an integral component of elite athlete development for those two venues. That’s where they’ll stay, that’s where they’ll work out, that’s where they’ll have their training sessions…” he said.

“In order to fulfill that commitment to elite athlete development, the athletes’ centre is a critical component.”

It is not clear how much money would be available on an annual basis to run the three facilities.

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