While plans are in place for
the municipality to take over 12 new tennis courts and a fitness facility by
2014, the question of who will run the future athletic centre is still up in
Mayor Ken Melamed said the
possibility of contracting the centre out to a private operator is being
considered. However a business plan for the development by Holborn has not been
finalized and the predicted operating costs have not been calculated.
“Generally, facilities like
this don’t run at a profit,” he said.
“Our experience with
municipality-operated recreational places like Meadow Park Sports Centre is
that they are heavily subsidized. In this case, if there was a independent
operator, there would have to be a case that there would be a profit.”
The Resort Municipality of
Whistler (RMOW) currently subsidizes around 30 per cent of the operating costs
for Meadow Park Sports Centre. This rate has been consistent for the past 10
If the municipality ran the
tennis centre, the operating costs would be paid through the Parks and
Recreation budget, and would have to be put into RMOW’s five-year financial
“I should add that we had the
benefit of input from the tennis community and a number of people who were
advocating and supporting this facility who agreed that it would be beneficial
to have it run by another agency other than the developer,” said Melamed.
John Konig, a committee
member of the Whistler Valley Tennis Club, said that while the facility will
cost money to run, the municipality does not have to pay capital costs on the
project which is an advantage. He added there are several ways the tennis
centre can generate revenue.
“I don’t know exactly how
much it is going to cost to run it, a lot depends on how well it is built that
is another issue of ours, the standard of finish that the developer builds to,”
“There is a large restaurant
space, and the restaurant will obviously be leased out to someone like Wild
Wood, so that would bring in a constant flow of revenue. Other revenue ideas
obviously include memberships… The new facility will have a good sized
gymnasium component, which the municipality is quite confident will develop a
lot of money.”
Council’s commitment to take
on the tennis facility without a business plan came forward at the same meeting
this week where councillors were uncomfortable with a proposal from the
H.O.M.E. committee to provide 250 temporary beds, which also lacked a business
Melamed said the discrepancy
between the two decisions is that the Holborn tennis development does not
concern temporary housing, whereas the H.O.M.E. committee proposal does.
“Where we get into different
scenario is, it comes down to the issue of whether taxpayer dollars will be
used to subsidize housing in Whistler,” he said.
“To date taxpayer dollars
have not been directly used to subsidize resident housing. (Units) have been
delivered through other mechanisms. We have a history of providing recreation
services with taxpayer dollars. That is probably the strongest distinction
between the two.”
The Holborn proposal has been
in negotiations since May 2004 and involves the company building a tennis
facility and senior housing centre, along with market housing. The tennis
facility would have five indoor courts and seven outdoor courts. Holborn has
guaranteed the tennis facility and senior housing amenities to the community
after they are completed.
Whether Holborn will go
through with this promise has been a major issue with the project. Following a
meeting with council in August, Holborn and the municipality have tightened the
agreement to ensure the tennis courts and the senior housing will be delivered
to the community.
Part of the new arrangement
is that 33 units of market housing will be built first to fund construction.
The final housing units however will not be started until the amenities are
delivered to the municipality.
Bob McPherson, general
manager of community life for the municipality, said that even if Holborn sells
the property they are still on the hook to delivery the amenities.
“We are going to be looking
to Holborn to see this through. If they decide they are going to sell this
land, and the provision is that Company XYZ is going to build the facility, we
don’t care about that,” he said.
Konig said the Tennis Club
was disappointed with the council meeting on Monday, adding that the
municipality needs to see more guarantees like a letter of credit that these
amenities will be delivered.
“We feel the letter of credit
should be put in place as soon as the zoning is granted to the developer,” he
“Staff disagrees. They feel
that phasing the project will secure getting it done, but we don’t want to
leave any chances because this promise has been outstanding to the community
for 19 years.”
Another issue is that even if
council approves the proposal this year, the indoor facility would not be done
until 2014 and the senior housing not done until 2016.
As Konig put it: “Six years
is a long way away and any of us might be a little too stiff to play tennis
Holborn’s Peter Lang said the
up-coming Olympics makes it difficult to carry out construction until after
“The reality is that we’ve
pushed this into an incredibly expensive construction market with labour
shortages,” said Lang.
“Until after 2010, this is
just not going to happen. There is no available stuff.”