It used to be easy to make ice, you just set out some water and waited for the temperature to get below 32 F. Of course, its not that simple anymore; now it has to get below 0 C.
And circumstances have changed: we now have global warming, so it doesnt get below 0 C very often.
It used to be easy to make a decision, too. You set out the pros and cons within the context of a reasonable timetable, weighed them, and acted.
In a country where ice was part of the culture nine months of the year, perhaps this is what economists mean when they say Canadas productivity level is below par. Whistler cant make ice to save the Paralympics.
Perhaps, on balance, it is best that the 2010 Paralympic sledge hockey and curling will be held in Vancouver for the athletes, for the exposure of the sports, for the exposure of taxpayers. But one cant help but think that rather than making a decision, years of indecision have finally led to an inevitable conclusion.
By the latest estimates its going to cost $100 million to make ice on a complex, curving, concrete bobsled track in Whistler that will be used for a few weeks of competition. It would have cost more than $60 million to make a flat sheet of ice inside a building with seating for 2,700 spectators that might have had multiple uses throughout the year. So were not going to make the ice rink but the bobsleigh track, which wont have any seating, is still on.
Of course its not that simple.
There is strong evidence that in the last year every effort has been made to find a way to build the Paralympic sledge hockey arena in Whistler, but it has proved too expensive. Not just the capital cost of the facility but, more importantly, the annual operating cost, estimated at a minimum $1 million. And there are people who will tell you that it was always so; that there was no way a town of 10,000 people could afford a second ice rink, and in particular a rink that tried to be many things to many people.
As well, it may not have been the best use of a prime piece of real estate in the heart of Whistler Village. Well forego the interminable debate about the best use of taxpayers money.
But while the facility has finally, mercifully, been laid to rest, before we put the issue aside we owe it to ourselves to remember how we got here.
This was not (just) a failure to find a solution in an overheated building market.
Lots 1 and 9 in Whistler Village have been the designated site for the Paralympic sledge hockey since interest in the Olympic bid began to get serious around the time of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. More than three years ago Whistler was awarded the Paralympics.
Despite that lead time, a promise of $20 million from VANOC and "free" land, we couldnt make it work in 2006. "Its unfortunate its taken this long to come to a decision," one councillor said Monday. We have to maintain "flexibility as circumstance change," said another. "Were making the best decision for the community."
And, given the situation they inherited, this council probably did make the right decision. That decision was also cushioned by VANOC who, after months of saying the arena was Whistlers decision, extending deadlines and vowing to let the community work through the evaluation process, issued a letter Sunday "requesting" Whistler consider moving the sledge hockey and curling to Vancouver.
But its not that simple.
From what was a firm position three years ago, Whistlers commitment to the Paralympics wavered month after month, year after year until Mondays inevitable conclusion.
Of course circumstances changed in three years a lot has changed, including interests in the Paralympics. While Whistler has been involved in the Olympics and Paralympics from day one and its needs and concerns considered from the outset, the scope of the Olympic project has evolved and Whistler hasnt kept pace. CTV, Hockey Canada, VANOC, the IOC and others involved are clear and vocal in what they want from the Games.
Whistler thats all of us, collectively is still trying to figure it out.