Blackcomb Way meridian to be removed this summer 

Celebration Plaza on track for handover to VANOC in October

The municipality will be removing the landscaped median in the middle of Blackcomb Way south of Lorimer Road this summer, to facilitate the flow of one-way traffic for the 2010 Games.

It is not clear yet if the road will be closed during the $150,000 remodeling, but at the very least there will be alternating single-lane traffic during the work.

While accepting that the budget was significant for the work Brian Barnett, the general manager of environmental services for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, said the work needed to be done for efficient traffic flow.

"That is a lot of money," said Barnett.

"But imagine you are driving along behind a car and it stops to unload some people or stops to pick up some people, no cars can pass. So in order to pass that car the median has to be removed."

To complete the work the concrete, asphalt and landscaping all have to be removed and then the road has to be re-paved.

The money will likely be drawn from theĀ  pavement maintenance budget but talks are also underway with Olympic organizers about contributing to the project.

Barnett said a median would likely be put back in after the Games though it will look different. It is not clear how much that will cost.

Travellers on Blackcomb Way will be accessing the Whistler Olympic and Paralympics Celebration Plaza, where nightly medal ceremonies and entertainment will be held during both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as the transportation mall in the parking lots.

Work is continuing on the $13.6 million Celebration Plaza this summer with the work on the deep utilities, such as sanitary and storm sewers, and water supply, almost complete.

The next phase will see the shallow utilities, such things as power and communication lines, go in. That work should be complete by the end of August.

"We are definitely on time and we are definitely on budget though I don't want to go into detailed budget information at this time," said Martin Pardoe, manager of parks and open space planning for the municipality.

"Our commitment is to hand over site to (the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games) at the end of October and we are well on track for that."

During the Games, Celebration Plaza - with a capacity of 5,000 spectators - will be the venue for the nightly medals ceremonies, concerts and the closing ceremony for the Paralympic Winter Games. Celebration Plaza will anchor the network of integrated live sites along Village Stroll. These sites will feature daily and nightly, family-friendly programming including live performances, interactive events, and exhibitions across a full spectrum of arts, culture and entertainment.

When the fencing comes down around the plaza site this fall it is likely residents will be disappointed at how plain the site looks with its covering of temporary paving blocks.

But, said Pardoe, people should keep in mind the tremendous investment that lies beneath the ground, which will allow the site, to be transformed into a park in 2010, to hold gatherings from just a few people to 4,000 guests.

"It is really a performance area disguised as a park," said Pardoe, adding that corporate organizations are already contacting the municipality to book the site for functions in the future.

After the Games, Celebration Plaza will be transformed into a park with tiered seating and a children's play area.

About 60 per cent of the children's play area will be ready to use by the end of 2009, said Pardoe.

Designed with nature in mind the new play area will feature tree-house structures and will offer covered play so that it is user friendly no matter what the weather. It will also be universally accessible with the structures built on rubber matting.

About 40 per cent of the funding for the play area has come from outside sources.

The total cost to revamp the plaza from the gravel-covered space VANOC will use during the Games to its post-Olympic state is $6.3 million. That amount is included in the $13.6 million construction budget, of which $4.5 million is coming from the Resort Municipality of Whistler's hotel tax revenue.

A third, $59-million phase of development for Celebration Plaza remains dependent on securing funding. Phase 3 may include a recreational skating amenity, mixed-use and institutional buildings.


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