With the support of the community and an endorsement from council, a working group has been formed to seek funding for the skating surface and iconic roof structure proposed for the Lot 1/9 medals plaza.
A final decision on the project will need to be made in February 2008, to allow construction to start the following month.
“There’s no time to waste,” said Councillor Bob Lorriman, one of the two members of the Lot 1/9 task force to sit on the working group, along with Drew Meredith. Other members include municipal planner Mike Kirkegaard, Councillor Eckhard Zeidler, municipal marketing manager John Rae, executive director for the 2010 Winter Games in Whistler Jim Godfrey, and Whistler 2010 office communications manager Michele Comeau Thompson.
“Because we’re working under such a tight timeline — we’re going to have to come back to council in February to decide whether or not to go ahead — a lot of work needs to get done in a short period of time,” said Lorriman. “To raise that kind of money usually takes a lot longer than we’ve been given, but we’re going to do our best to move this forward.”
The municipality has already secured about $14.2 million to develop the Lot 1/9 area between the Whistler Health Care Centre and the Brewhouse Pub into a medal plaza for the 2010 Games. About $8 million would be spent to prepare the site before the Olympics and Paralympics, and the remainder of the budget will be spent post-Games to turn it into a municipal common area.
The original plan to build a Paralympic hockey arena on the site was rejected in 2006 due to the soaring construction costs, forcing the task force to go back to the drawing board.
The new plan consists of a green space, or great lawn, with a paved area that will feature a stage for medal presentations.
However, the task force also took public input into consideration, and presented an enhanced plan last week that would include an outdoor skating rink and a free-standing roof structure of wood, glass and metal that would add $20 million to the price tag for the medals plaza — roughly $2 million for the rink, $8 million for the roof, and $8 million for the supporting infrastructure and servicing.
The working group is charged with finding funding for the rink and roof structure, and will lobby provincial and federal governments for money, as well as Olympic sponsors.
Lorriman is emphatic that the money will not come from the Olympics.
“VANOC is not on our list,” he said. “There is no Olympic funding for this project. The money we do have in the budget is solely for preparing the lot for the ceremonies and falls in the $14 million budget. Our task is to come up with the money for the iconic roof structure.”
According to Lorriman the working group has already held two meetings, including a meeting on Oct. 30. They have also hired a consulting firm that has worked with the Games in Torino and Beijing.
“There hasn’t been a lot of discussion on this in the budget, and it’s not something we can spend a lot of money on,” said Lorriman. “If we can leverage the Olympic opportunity, that’s great, but we don’t need to build it before the Olympics if we can’t meet the deadline.”
The working group has already been approached by several members of the community with ideas for fundraising, and will hold an informal meeting in the next few weeks to invite people to share their fundraising ideas.
“We’re running into people at Nesters and on the street who have ideas, and we want to capture some of that energy and do a brainstorming session around the ideas so we’re not doing this behind closed doors,” said Lorriman. “It’s happening so fast, and we’re interested in any help we can get.”
As for the task force, Meredith believes that the group will continue to meet and work on the project.
“I think the consensus is that the project is going to need a little more work, especially on what happens on the site after the Games,” said Meredith. “For example, if we don’t get the funding for the iconic roof structure, we may look at other, cheaper ways to get an outdoor rink for the area and other options for the roof. The goal at the beginning was to make this a legacy for the community, and we’ll continue to meet until we’ve achieved that.”