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Driving range to become day skier parking

Negotiations between VANOC and Tourism Whistler almost wrapped up



Skiers may now have a place to park their cars when they drive to Whistler for a day on the slopes this year.

Officials with the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympics (VANOC) and Tourism Whistler are currently at the negotiation table working out the final details in a plan to transform the Whistler Driving Range into a temporary parking lot this winter.

If the deal goes through, skiers and boarders will be able to park on the lawn between Whistler Way and Highway 99 from December to April, said Diana Lyons, vice president of operations for Tourism Whistler. The space is large enough to fit 500-650 cars each day.

"It gives day parking to folks that are going to come up and ski, shop, and eat in the resort," said Lyons. "There will be a great economic benefit from it."

Lyons explained Tourism Whistler gave VANOC use of the driving range during the Games at the same time that they agreed to let the Olympic organizers use the Telus Conference Centre for a media centre.

Over the years, officials with VANOC had several ideas about how to use the land during the Olympics, but none materialized. Meanwhile, the officials kept hearing concerns from people at the municipality, Tourism Whistler, and Whistler Blackcomb about how difficult it will be for day skiers this winter since almost all of the traditional visitor parking lots are being used for Olympic operations.

Lyons said a few months ago, VANOC came to Tourism Whistler with the idea of creating a parking lot for skiers and boarders on the driving range, and the idea took off from there.

"Because this project has been developed quite quickly, there are a number of details that still need to be worked out," said Lyons.

As things currently stand, VANOC will be responsible for constructing the parking lot on the golf facility as well as converting the land back into a driving range after the Games wrap up and the snow melts in April.  Whistler Blackcomb, on the other hand, will be in charge of day-to-day operations of the driving range-parking lot.

Spokespeople from both VANOC and Whistler Blackcomb were not prepared to comment publicly at this time.

VANOC officials have applied for a Temporary Use Permit (TUP) with the municipality and a spokesperson with the Olympic organization said they wanted to confirm whether their application has been approved yet before commenting publicly. Keith Bennett, the municipality's general manager of resort experience, is currently reviewing the TUP request.

Once the final contract has been drafted and signed, construction crews will start prepping the land for cars, said Lyons.

The crews will level the driving range, and lay down a bed of crushed gravel, said Lyons. Then, they will remove the nets and poles on the land and build a second entrance.

After the Games, Lyons believes the driving range will be better than it is now, because VANOC will contour the land into a state-of-the-art facility as well as build a berm between the driving range and the highway.

"From the golf course's perspective, and our clients', once it is put back together again, we will get a much better facility," said Lyons.

Barrett Fisher, president and CEO of Tourism Whistler, added the deal could be a key part of the marketing organization's strategy to attract tourists to Whistler during the unusual winter season ahead.

"When the parking lot usage was contemplated, we certainly reviewed the request and had some discussions with our board of directors, and we believe that due to the fact VANOC will be using a number of parking lots throughout the resort, there is a need to supplement that with some additional parking for our core skiers," said Fisher.

"While we are confident that we will have a strong Olympic clientele within Whistler, we would like to simultaneously ensure we don't turn our regular skier clientele away."