Four arena concepts to be unveiled 

Community asked again to help shape future of Lots 1, 9

By Alison Taylor

At least four design concepts for Whistler’s new arena will be revealed this weekend at a public forum/workshop.

It’s now up to the community to decide which one they like best or if they want to take parts of each concept and come up with something new.

“They’re dynamic concepts that reflect the community’s ideas,” said Mike Kirkegaard, senior planner with the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

Those ideas were canvassed at an open house in mid-January where 150 community members brainstormed their visions for Lots 1 & 9, the forested land behind the Brew House Pub.

Kirkegaard said the four concepts each allow Whistler to host the Paralympic sledge hockey events in 2010 as well as have a facility with a lasting legacy. That means these concepts aren’t just regular big box arenas.

Some of the complementary uses in the various designs include: a museum, a centre for sustainability, local independent retail space, artist space, classroom space, tourist accommodation and even employee housing.

There could also be room for a grand plaza, which could be used as a commemorative space for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

The design concepts have interesting names like The Frozen River, The Mountain Ten, The Solar Rink and The Island.

The costs to develop each design will not be a part of the workshop on Saturday. Whistler will be getting $20 million from the Vancouver Organizing Committee towards the cost of construction. The remainder will be up to Whistler to finance.

“We have some numbers but we’re not going to get into details on that,” said Kirkegaard. “We don’t have the full detailed analysis of each. These are conceptual at this time. (But) we’re certainly looking at the cost numbers and the business plan.”

As per the community’s request, the designs combine the natural elements of the outdoors, such as the mountains and the forest, with an indoor rink big enough to host the Paralympic sledge hockey events.

That was reaffirming to planner Eldon Beck who has helped to shape the village from its early days,

In his review of 32 pages of public comment Beck was very satisfied to see the community hold up the original values of the resort plan.

“What I found was that many of them, I felt, were very much aligned with the original purposes of the whole village, that this was a village in the forest… and that this is a place in the mountains,” said Beck. “Literally every decision we make should understand that the mountain environment ought to guide us in some dramatic ways.”

Since the late ’80s the site has been earmarked for a community facility as a place where all the people in the valley, both residents and guests to the resort, could gather. Now it seems that original vision could be the future of Lots 1& 9.

“I see it potentially as the social centre of the entire community,” explained Beck. “I think it’s absolutely vital. I think it’s one of the magic spots in Whistler.”

Much like at the first workshop in January, this Saturday the community will spend the first hour in an unstructured open house format, followed by an hour presentation of the alternative concepts and ending with an hour and a half as an interactive workshop.

Childcare will be provided. The workshop will take place on Saturday, March 4 from 2 to 5:30 p.m. at the Telus Conference Centre. All are welcome and encouraged to attend and help shape the future of the last undeveloped piece of land in the village.

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