Whistler's outdoor ice rink opens for the season 

MLA Jordan Sturdy drops by to see provincial money at work

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CLARE OGILVIE - READY, SET, SKATE Whistler Mayor Nancy-Wilhelm-Morden and West Vancouver-Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy officially open the outdoor skating rink at Whistler Olympic Plaza. Sturdy took the opportunity to tour other facilities supported by RMI funds from the province.
  • Photo By Clare Ogilvie
  • READY, SET, SKATE Whistler Mayor Nancy-Wilhelm-Morden and West Vancouver-Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy officially open the outdoor skating rink at Whistler Olympic Plaza. Sturdy took the opportunity to tour other facilities supported by RMI funds from the province.

By 10:45 a.m. today there was already a line up for the opening of the outdoor ice rink at Whistler's Olympic Plaza.

"I read about it the paper so I thought I would bring my kids along to try skating - my husband's skiing," said Shirley Monteroy up from Seattle for a few days of vacation.

"It's a really great idea to have it outside. It's so, well, Canadian," she added with a laugh.

Monteroy is not alone in her enjoyment of the rink. Last year 24,000 people rented skates at the rink, and it's likely hundreds more brought there own to enjoy the ice surface - that's up from 16,000 the year before.

Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden admits the numbers are a surprise.

"I have to say I was a little bit skeptical about this ice rink when the idea was first floated," she said after officially opening the rink at Whistler Olympic Plaza along with West Vancouver-Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy.

"But it has just been such a hit for the community and the guests. So many people come here and they have never skated before, and then they get the opportunity to skate outside in this beautiful venue - it is just over-the-top marvellous really. And the numbers are just remarkable."

The facility was funded with $1.4 million in provincial Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funding when proposed in 2011 - at that time the ice surface was temporary. The permanent facilities were put in place in 2012. This year the attraction will use, $127,922 in RMI funding to operate until early April.

Earlier this year the province said it was taking a second look at the RMI funds and their use by the 14 members of the Resort Collaborative - a group of resorts that receive targeted money to grow tourism from the province based on hotel receipts.

Sturdy, who toured some of the facilities to receive RMI funding, was measured as he commented on the RMI and its importance to Whistler, though freely admitted that the use of the funds for capital items such as the ice-rink are exactly what the province is looking for.

"Certainly I recognize the value that (RMI) has to this community, and what it has done over the years and what it does on an annual basis," he said.

"Probably going forward there is going to be an increase focus on capital projects, like upgrades to the Rainbow Theatre, trails, connections, wayfinding - all the things that Whistler does so well an on-going basis in the RMI planning.

"Operationally it will be perhaps more challenging going forward, though I can't speak to that specifically."

The province is looking at the benchmark system said Sturdy, and that may be an area where changes are introduced.

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