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The Whistler Resort Association agreed Tuesday to guarantee the last $500,000 of the $3 million loan needed for snowmaking, which should clear the way for Whistler to become a permanent stop on the World Cup tour.

The Whistler Resort Association agreed Tuesday to guarantee the last $500,000 of the $3 million loan needed for snowmaking, which should clear the way for Whistler to become a permanent stop on the World Cup tour. Officials with the W5 group were hoping to have final details of the interest-free loan worked out with the Hong Kong Bank of Canada this week, so the snow-making equipment could finally be ordered and capital purchases made. Tuesday’s decision by the WRA board, and a reconfirmation by Whistler council Tuesday afternoon to guarantee $1.5 million of the loan, were the last moves in consummating a deal that was thought to have been done four weeks ago. On June 3 Whistler council voted 4-1 to guarantee $1.5 million of the loan, which was then believed to be all the bank required. Since then it became apparent the bank wanted all $3 million of the 10-year loan guaranteed. Whistler Mountain said two weeks ago it would guarantee $1 million, but the bank still required the last $500,000 be guaranteed. Nigel Woods, owner of Coastal Mountain Excavation, offered to guarantee the money on a short-term basis, but that didn’t work for the bank. With the WRA on board, three members of the W5 group will put their names to the $10 million loan, which is to be re-paid at a rate of $300,000 per year: the Resort Municipality of Whistler will guarantee the first five years, Whistler Mountain Ski Corp. will guarantee years 6 through 8, and one-third of year 9, while the WRA will guarantee two-thirds of year 9 and all of year 10. The Whistler Chamber of Commerce and the Vancouver Ski Foundation are the other members of the W5 group. The W5 group anticipates being able to repay the loan by selling sponsorships to the event. The Hong Kong Bank of Canada will become presenting sponsor for the race, and the festival built around it, in exchange for the interest-free loan. While virtually all parties involved in the deal see considerable benefits for the community and the resort in annually hosting a men’s World Cup downhill and super G in December, putting their names on the line to guarantee the money was not an easy decision. "If we have to pay out on our guarantee we’ll have to collect from the members," said WRA Director Craig MacKenzie. "We (the WRA) have to budget to zero and build up reserve funds for replacing the conference centre roof and building a golf club house and other things," said WRA President David Thomson. "We have to keep our costs stable while our assessments grow. There are so many things we could be doing with those dollars," Thomson added. He said the WRA will have to set aside about $50,000 a year for the next 10 years for its portion of the loan guarantee, but added that shouldn’t delay construction of the golf course club house or other projects. Two weeks ago Thomson had said the resort association’s purpose was to market the event and that it didn’t have the resources to finance the on-hill improvements. Tuesday he said: "Traditionally it’s something we don’t get into, but the board felt the World Cup was important and our support was needed." When the municipality’s portion of the loan guarantee came up at Tuesday’s council meeting Councillor Max Kirkpatrick noted many individuals and businesses had expressed strong support for the World Cup. "There’s no doubt the business community has sent a message," Kirkpatrick said later. Last month the municipality had proposed to use its portion of the hotel tax to guarantee the $1.5 million. However, under the Municipal Act the present council can’t bind future councils by assigning future revenues. So on Tuesday council voted 3-1 to provide for the municipality’s portion of the loan guarantee by reserving $1.5 million of the general fund surplus. The hotel tax could be used to reimburse the general fund if its necessary to make payments on the loan. The general fund surplus, carried forward from previous years, currently sits at about $2.9 million. Councillors Kirkpatrick, Hugh O’Reilly and Kristi Wells voted in favour of the move but Councillor Thelma Johnstone was opposed, saying it meant taking $1.5 million out of a budget of approximately $19 million without reviewing the overall impact. "As a council we’ve had a month to review this," Johnstone said in asking to delay the motion 48 hours for a budget review. "Members of this council knew four weeks ago the motion wouldn’t stand as it was, we could have reviewed it before now," Johnstone said following the meeting. "I think the public should know what’s not going to be done over the next five years (because of allocating funds for the loan guarantee)." But O’Reilly, in noting a decision was needed immediately, said the risks to the municipality look negligible. "Without this the event is not going to occur," O’Reilly said. "The benefits outweigh the risks, and given the past year — with the (Quicksilver) lift and the highway — we need a major marketing thrust. "This is a one-time opportunity and I think it’s in the best interest of everyone who pays taxes."