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Warner reiterates commitment to sledge hockey arena

Venue would cost more that recreation plan’s most expensive option



"I think we have a lot of people in the area that are going to support this."

— Mayor Elinor Warner

On Pemberton as a possible site for sledge hockey arena

While Whistler prepares to host a public meeting on the issue of the Paralympic sledge hockey arena, Pemberton hasn’t given up its desire to be the location of the controversial venue.

At the Aug. 9 Village of Pemberton council meeting Mayor Elinor Warner reiterated her commitment to ensuring that Pemberton has a fair shot at the multi-million dollar project should the RMOW decline to be involved.

In an unusual move, Warner read her entire presentation to a meeting that occurred July 21 between representatives from the VOP, the RMOW, VANOC and Mt. Currie Band council. The meeting was the result of a joint letter from Warner and Chief Leonard Andrew asking to meet with representatives from the RMOW and VANOC.

Warner’s presentation was built around a chronology of events starting with a recollection of a 2002 golf game with Jack Poole. The mayor ascertains that the then CEO of the 2010 Bid Corporation suggested that the community put itself forward as a location for the arena. An ongoing correspondence ensued. Warner was surprised when the bid book, released in July 2003, showed that Whistler had been named as the location for the arena. She was even more surprised when it became known Whistler was unsure whether they would proceed with building the venue and Squamish was being discussed as an alternative.

"When we left (the meeting at Spruce Grove), they told us we would be given equal opportunity to apply (to be the venue location)," said Warner.

The 85,000 sq. ft. facility, estimated at $18 million would cost the VOP and its partners, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and Mt. Currie, an estimated $9 million. The annual operating cost of the arena would be in the vicinity of $500,000.

The recent SLRD Recreation Master Plan for Pemberton and Electoral Area C developed by Professional Environmental Recreation Consultants conceded that recreation facilities in that price range – an arena complex costing $8.6 million and a $10.3 million facility featuring an indoor pool – both represented too great a tax burden for area property owners. In both cases, annual operating costs were less than projected costs of the sledge hockey arena, with the pool complex estimated at $450,000 per annum.

Asked about the practicality of a 3,000-seat hockey arena Warner stated that the space was flexible.

"You look at this complex and it’s big, but you can take seats out."

The mayor said it was premature to discuss any potential design or how much a role spaced conversion would play if the venue was built in Pemberton.

"At this point all we’re saying is, ‘Just don’t count us out.’"

In terms of financing, Warner said that the addition of the SLRD and Mt. Currie could increase granting opportunities and provide a greater tax base. She estimated the total area population to be between 10,000 and 12,000.

According to VOP staff, the current population of Pemberton is 2,204. The last available census figure for Electoral Area C, including Mt. Currie, is from 2001 and places the population at 2,819.

The mayor said should Pemberton find itself in the running as a location for the venue, the issue would go to the community before a decision would be made. Asked if that consultation would take the form of a referendum to be held in conjunction with November’s election, Warner said it was too soon to discuss, any planning would happen after the RMOW makes its decision on Sept. 6.

Warner concluded her discussion of the issue by saying, "I think we have a lot of people in the area that are going to support this."