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Sport Legacies Society announces management team

Diane Mombourquette appointed vice president of corporate services

There will be a lot of work to do following the 2010 Games at Whistler's Olympic venues, everything from taking down bleachers and removing temporary trailers to turning bedrooms into garages at the Whistler athletes village.

But one of the Vancouver Organizing Committee's (VANOC's) last acts will be to hand over the keys to Whistler's Olympic venues to the Whistler 2010 Sport Legacies Society, which will own the venues and operate them on a non-profit basis in the future. Those venues are the Whistler Sliding Centre, Whistler Olympic Park and the Whistler Athletes' Centre, which includes a high performance centre, an athletes' lodge and townhomes for local athletes that qualify.

Last week W2010SLC announced its final leadership team for moving forward after the Games, drawing heavily from the current management team that helped to bring the venues together.

Keith Bennett was confirmed as president and CEO in the spring after serving with the group as a representative of the Resort Municipality of Whistler since its inception.

Diane Mombourquette was confirmed as vice president of corporate services last week, while this week it was confirmed that Paul Shore would serve as director of the Whistler Sliding Centre; Todd Allison as director of the Whistler Athletes' Centre and Lindsay Scott Durno as director of Whistler Olympic Park.

Shore was the legacy society's first employee and has been the manager of business development from the beginning. He has done a lot of research to determine how Olympic venues like bobsleigh tracks around the world recoup their costs and will apply what he's learned to Whistler.

Durno has been the operations manager at Whistler Olympic Park for the past three years, and has nearly five decades in the ski, hospitality and tourism industry. She has also been a member of Canada's Nordic community for three decades, and has managed the Big Thunder National Ski Training Centre in Thunder Bay, Ontario as well as her own alpine and Nordic skiing consulting business.

Todd Allison is a former freestyle athlete who has been involved in the 2010 Olympics since the early bid stages through the Canada Sports Centre. During the Games he is the rooms manager for the athletes' village.

The executive team will be overseen by a board of directors representing the community and high performance sport. The board is currently chaired by Bill France.

The sport legacies are supported by $110 million endowment provided by the federal and provincial governments and managed by the Games Operating Trust (GOT). The endowment is intended to ensure that the facilities are viable for the future. Eighty per cent of the endowment's earnings are split between the Whistler venues and the Richmond Oval, while the other 20 per cent will be reinvested as a contingency.

As well, W2010SLS is tasked with raising money to cover its own operating costs. For the Whistler Sliding Centre that could mean giving the public a chance to ride a bobsleigh and hosting events, while Whistler Olympic Park is already selling tickets to day skiers and hosting programs and events.

The Whistler Athletes' Centre will be managed as a high performance gym for visiting athletes, but the public will also be able to purchase passes and memberships to use the gym at times. As well, the Whistler Gymnastics Club and other community groups will pay rent to help cover the cost of running the gymnastics facility attached to the athletes' centre. The athletes centre will also rent housing to visiting and resident athletes that is part of the overall legacy.

According to Bennett it will be a challenge for the facilities to make a profit while still meeting community recreation and high performance sport goals, "and that's why we have an endowment in place, similar to what was done in Calgary Olympic Park, in Park City and in Torino," he said.

There are business plans in place for each facility after the Games, but Bennett says those plans are continuously evolving. For example, the Games Operating Trust lost value as a result of the financial crisis, which means there could be less funding available than was forecast. That has to be factored into future business models.

"The one thing I tell people is that while we're not for profit, we're also not for loss," said Bennett.

Business plans are also evolving in the sense that it will be several years for facilities to reach a "steady state," from start-up.

Whistler Olympic Park's cross country trails are the most straightforward of the facilities, said Bennett, and are already attracting skiers from the Lower Mainland and through the Sea to Sky Corridor.

As for the ski jump and biathlon facilities, Bennett points to a memorandum of understanding signed with Calgary Olympic Park to work together attracting and promoting events.

"I don't know if we can reach a point in the first 10 years where it would be totally self-sufficient, I think it will continue to need support, but as the legacies go it's already quite far along," he said.

The athletes' centre will have a community component, with the public using the gym and the Whistler Gymnastics Centre as a permanent tenant - sharing their space and equipment with other groups looking to use the trampolines and foam pits. The housing attached to the centre is available for use for cultural purposes as well as sports to increase the use of beds.

The Whistler Sliding Centre will likely be open to public tourism as well as for training and events. Details are still in discussion, but one day visitors to the resort will have an option to ride a bobsleigh down the track.

Bennett says funding for the facilities could also increase through the federal and provincial development of sports, although they are not budgeting for that.

"There are lots of discussions in the field, one is Minister Gary Lunn's panel, the federal minister for sport and for the Games," Bennett explained. "The panel is looking at the future of high performance sports and what it should look like nationally. He's working with national sport organizations and other stakeholders to see where the venues are and how they should work together, how they are funded and what our goals are on a national basis."