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Range of costs presented for Paralympic arena

Council to make $20 million decision at Oct. 17 meeting



The preliminary costs are in and a Paralympic arena in the village could range in cost between $27 million and more than $61 million.

Those were the draft figures presented to council on Monday afternoon, with the understanding that the numbers would be refined before they are presented to the public at today’s (Oct. 6) open house.

Deputy Administrator Bill Barratt reiterated the importance of doing what’s right for Whistler, as opposed to the economics of the deal.

"We’ve always made the right decisions by being very careful in our planning," he said after the meeting. "Economics doesn’t drive good planning."

Three options were laid out to council for different types of arenas on Lots 1 and 9, the forested land behind the Brew Pub.

The first is described as a "bare bones" traditional arena – a steel box with a concrete façade. With no parking and no requirements to meet the strict village design guidelines, this arena would cost roughly $25 million. At least $2 million more would need to be spent in order to make the arena suit all the Paralympic requirements.

The second option is Eldon Beck’s proposal. Beck is the master designer of the original village. His concept for an arena includes a free-form ice sheet with no walls. The roof and wall structure is described as a tensile membrane, similar to a big-top tent. Details on snowload for this design are still to be worked out.

Staff has determined that it’s possible to build a standard international sized ice rink over Beck’s free-form ice surface, which would meet the Paralympic requirements. The preliminary costs of this option are roughly $30 million. This number could change if the ice surface is smaller.

One major issue with this proposal, however, is that there may not be any controls on the condition of the ice surface. A good ice surface is critical for the Paralympics.

And yet, Beck’s proposal does bring animation to the village, more so than a traditional box arena.

"It’s got the Kodak moment component to it," said RMOW Planner Martin Pardoe.

It is not a traditional arena. There could be ice skating under the tensile roof from November until the spring. During the summer months it could be programmed for other events.

The third option presented to council is the one offered up by the local business community, in particular businessman Norbert Doebelin. His proposal, drawn up by architects that he paid for, called for commercial/institutional buildings to prop up the roof of a rink. Those buildings could include a culinary school, museum, dance studio among other things. The roof itself is intended to provide seating in an outdoor amphitheatre. The stage would be the roof of one of the commercial buildings. Doebelin estimated it would cost about $20 million.

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