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Gymnastics club asks council for help

Facility costs are continuing to rise past budget

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The Whistler Gymnastics Club's tenure at their new facility in the High Performance Centre at Cheakamus Crossing may be short-lived, unless they can get some assurances from the Whistler 2010 Sports Legacies Society and the Resort Municipality of Whistler that their costs won't increase beyond what has been negotiated for the past nine months.

They would also like more transparency.

A letter from the gymnastics club was received at the Sept. 21 council meeting. The letter asks the municipality to review the situation, going back six years to when the club and municipality initially discussed building space in the High Performance Centre - adding onto a building that was already part of Whistler's Olympic commitments.

The municipality agreed to spend $2 million to build a full-time gymnastics centre on the site, a legacy that was then leveraged to raise funding for the building from governments and Olympic sponsors.

Despite that funding and the promised legacy, the club now faces a situation where they are paying more than three times as much for the new facility as for space at Spring Creek Community School - with no guarantees that their costs won't increase in the future.

"The base amount we were okay starting with has increased hugely," explained Sandi Wentzel, who was hired by Whistler Gymnastics to manage their transition into what's now being called the Oros Whistler Gymnastics Centre.

The gymnastics club is still without a contract to operate in the facility. In the meantime, with the clock ticking on the 2010-2011 season, they have spent over $230,000 on new equipment for the facility, including a $210,000 grant from the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation - much of it committed before they knew what their true operating costs would be.

Back in November 2009 the legacy society presented a contract to the gymnastics club for $51,995 per year. The building, paid for by the municipality, would be rent-free as agreed, but the club would be asked to pay triple net fees of $8 per square foot to cover the cost of insurance, utilities, security, snow clearing, landscaping, the district heating system and other operational costs associated with the building.

In December 2009, the Whistler Gymnastics Club asked for a breakdown of those cost estimates.  They have yet to receive that information.

In the meantime it did not escape the club's notice that the amount they were being charged was almost identical - within $400 - to the amount they presented to council five years earlier when the legacy was first being discussed. That estimate, said Wentzel, was based on being in a new facility for five years, with adequate time to develop more programming and partnerships with other sporting groups in the community.

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