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New Olympic budget shows millions more to be spent on Whistler venues

Whistler Sliding Centre is $44.9 million over budget



Millions more dollars have been committed to Whistler for the 2010 Winter Olympic venues.

The new budgets for the Whistler Sliding Centre, the Whistler Nordic Centre, the alpine venue on Whistler, the athletes village, and athletes centre mean that the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Winter Games will spend an extra $76.3 million here.

The majority of the money, $44.9 million, is being spent on the Whistler Sliding Centre. It had an original 2002 budget of $55 million and will now cost $99.9 million.

Terry Wright, executive vice-president at VANOC, said the dramatic jump in cost is due to several factors including the complexity of the facility, competition for workers with other projects in Western Canada (such as the Alberta tar sands), and the increase in the price of concrete and steel.

He also admits that VANOC was way out in its 2002 bid estimate of how much it would cost to build the venue.

"…I think the estimate could have been flawed," he said during a press conference for VANOC’s first-ever quarterly financial report.

At the time the bid corporation could only go by the costs associated with sliding centres built historically.

"We didn’t have information on the Torino (host of the 2004 Winter Olympics) costs," he said.

"They weren’t available at that time because the track had not been constructed and it certainly would have modified our thinking somewhat on what our cost estimate should have been."

The Torino sliding track cost $110 million.

Wright, who along with all senior executives earns between $200,000 and $250,000 annually, said VANOC is determined not to spend more than the $99.9 million.

"…With 90 per cent (of the contracts) committed and really only some minor pieces to contract I would say we have a high degree of comfort within the $99.9 million and obviously we have sufficient contingency if we were slightly off on that," he said.

"Everyone is focused on that number. No one wants to see it cross that threshold of going above that 99.9 number."

The new budgets for the venues may face some revision when VANOC’s second business plan is complete by the end of this year.

For now it reflects the $580 million venues budget outlined in February. VANOC estimates that by venue completion the costs overall will be about 33 per cent higher than originally estimated. But, said Wright, that is significantly below the 60 per cent increase construction experts are forecasting costs will be at by Games time for other non-Olympic projects.

The quarterly report puts the new budget for the alpine venues on Whistler Mountain at $26.2 million, up from $23 million. The added costs come mostly from the purchase of technical equipment for snowmaking and the increase in cost of steel piping and welding labour — much in demand in Alberta.

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