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Games Operating Trust grows in 2012

Participation and special events boosted WSL revenues last year, legacy fund payments increased



The Games Operating Trust (GOT) had a pretty good year in 2012, with investments earning a return of roughly nine per cent to result in a fund balance of $108 million at the end of the year — about $3.4 million higher than reported at the end of 2011.

The fund started the year with a balance of $104.5 million. Some $5.6 million was paid out to Whistler Sport Legacies (WSL) and the City of Richmond to help manage the Olympic assets in their trust.

WSL received $2.81 million in 2012, including $2.17 million from the Games Operating Trust Fund and $643,473 from the contingency fund. The City of Richmond received $2.18 million from its fund, plus an identical $643,473 from the contingency.

For 2013, both WSL and Richmond have requested the maximum once again, which is five percent of the value of the fund over a three-year average. In June, Whistler received $2.81 million, which includes roughly the same amount from the contingency as 2012, while Richmond received $2.82 million.

The value of the Games Operating Trust fund and interest earned in 2013 won't be calculated until the end of the year.

The GOT was established in 2003 after Whistler and Vancouver were awarded the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, with the provincial and federal governments kicking in $55 million each to ensure that the most challenging Olympic legacies — namely the Whistler Sliding Centre, Whistler Olympic Park and Richmond Oval — were supported into the future.

By late 2007 the value of the fund had risen to $131 million, but the financial crisis of 2007-2008 wiped out those gains and temporarily dropped the funds' value to below $100 million. The value did rise again and was sitting at $114 million in 2010 before the assets were handed over to the WSL and Richmond. Both stakeholders needed extra funds at the time to cover the cost of the transition, as well as capital investments to make the venues more user-friendly to the public.

Roger Soane, the CEO of WSL, said that the GOT funds — plus additional funds from the provincial government — will always be necessary to underwrite the facilities, even though revenues are increasing.

WSL's numbers have not been audited for 2012 yet, but Soane said revenues from the Whistler Sliding Centre increased roughly 30 per cent, while revenues from Whistler Olympic Park increased by around 40 per cent.

At the same time, the WSL's overall budget will likely decrease from $7.5 million to below $7 million.

The budget, Soane says, will be influenced by the amount of capital investment required each year.

"I think we have close to $300 million in assets, and there's always going to be capital maintenance done on the venues and operating equipment," he said. "For example, we work on the track every year. It's a harsh environment with ice and concrete, and maintenance is going to be a regular thing."