By Clare Ogilvie
The Whistler Legacies Society and the City of Richmond will get millions of dollars annually from the federal and provincial government to help support the cost of running Olympic venues after the 2010 Winter Games are over.
This week Premier Gordon Campbell announced at the site of the Richmond Speed Skating Oval how the Legacy Endowment Fund created in late 2002 would be divided, with 40 per cent of the funds going to support the Richmond Oval, 40 per cent going to the Whistler venues, and 20 per cent being kept as a contingency fund.
“We are hopeful that this Games Operating Trust will provide support for the facilities not just leading up to the 2010 (Olympics) but well beyond 2010 so that they are giving to the next generation of athletes in the way we are trying to give to this generation of athletes,” said Campbell.
The Whistler venues will be managed by the Whistler Legacies Society (WLS), which has several stakeholders including government, first nations, and sport representatives.
Asked if Whistler’s share was enough to support two legacy facilities as compared to one venue in Richmond, WLS board member and Lil’wat representative Lyle Leo said: “We have no concerns at this point… (but) we are still detailing the business plans.”
WLS, which was incorporated March 14, will also manage the athlete’s centre at the site of the Whistler Athletes’ Village.
Leo hopes the business plans will be ready by the end of 2007. Once they are complete, said Leo, the WLS will be able to look to future sponsorship partnerships after the Games.
“This announcement gives us some financial security,” said Leo.
“The Games Operating Trust is one of the most crucial legacies for the 2010 Games to those of us in the Sea to Sky corridor. This enables us to move forward in developing a business model that will ensure financial stability of two key resources in the corridor which we will own and operate.
“The WLS is confident that the sliding centre and the Nordic centre will become main attractions in the province post-Games, offering excellent training opportunities for current and future athletes and first rate tourist amenities for visitors.”
The money flows from the Games Operating Trust (GOT) set up in 2002 by the province and the federal government. Each contributed $55 million to support the $178 million Richmond Olympic skating oval, the $104.9 million Whistler Sliding Centre, and the $119.7 million Whistler Nordic Centre after the 2010 Winter Games.
That fund had grown from $110 million to $133.6 million as of March 2007. The organizations managing the venues after the Games will receive funding from the interest gained on the legacy fund.
According to the 2006 Auditor Generals report; “Interest earned on the trust’s assets is to be used to cover the pre-Games operating costs of the Whistler Sliding Centre, Whistler Nordic Centre, Whistler Athletes’ Centre and the Richmond Speed Skating Oval.
“After the Games, the trust’s assets will be used to cover the post-Games operating costs of the three facilities.”
Richmond hopes to break even on its venue or need only a small subsidy each year following the Games.
For the City of Richmond, said Mayor Malcolm Brodie, the trust money means a world-class venue will not be a burden to taxpayers.
“The financial support provided by the trust ensures that we will be able to provide these meaningful legacies without basing an undue hardship or burden on the taxpayers of Richmond,” he said.
Richmond, which will own the oval after the Games, is contributing $114 million to its construction out of a total budget of $178 million.
After the Games the oval will be converted to a track and field facility, two international-sized ice hockey rinks, a court area that can host up to eight basketball courts, a sports science centre, and public space.
“This will probably be the most remarkable venue of its kind in the world largely because it has been built with the future in mind,” said John Furlong, the CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games at the event.”
Furlong said at the announcement that setting up the legacy for the facilities was part of the out-of-the-box initial planning for the Games
“I think (this is) one of the most novel and creative and innovative agreements any organizing committee has ever sat down to work on,” he said.
“The Games Trust Fund (was) essentially to make sure that the venues of 2010 Games would live on and contribute to sport in the community, sport in the province, sport across the country and around the world for generations… That is what this fund is set up to do.
“…. (This) means that every venue we have for the Games will contribute long after the flame goes out.”
The 1988 Calgary Games left a $70.5 million legacy, which had grown to $185 in 2006. The organization that manages several facilities uses five per cent of the fund to finance its operations. Of that five per cent about $4 million a year goes to sustaining and building its legacy facilities, equipment, office and administrative support to national sport organizations, and World Cup event assistance in Southern Alberta.