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Sports Legacies Society ramps up operations

Whistler non-profit will take the keys to the Olympic legacy venues May 31

Two months after the Winter Olympics ended in the Sea to Sky corridor, a new non-profit organization is ramping up operations to keep the spark of the Games alive.

The leaders behind the Whistler 2010 Sport Legacies Society are in the midst of hiring 10 managers to bulk up their team in preparation for May 31, the day they will receive the keys and start operating Whistler's three Olympic venues.

Positions currently open include a chief engineer for refrigeration plants, a manager of finance and a manager of operations for the athletes' centre. The society also has recently hired three managers for marketing and communications, facility maintenance and health, safety and environment.

"The first order of duty is to get those people in place who will be handling the transition of the venues, because we take possession of them May 31," explained Keith Bennett, the new president and CEO of the society.

"As you can imagine, there is a whole number of systems that need to be looked after and run as well as the more detailed proper planning for the winter season."

Along with hiring 10 managers, Bennett and his team are working round-the-clock hours to make sure they meet the licensing requirements for the three Olympic venues - Whistler Olympic Park, the Whistler Sliding Centre and the athletes' centre, with its high performance gym and athletes' lodge.

They are also wrapping up an agreement with the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) on what furniture fixtures and equipment will be handed over, and what will not.

When the society receives the keys to the Winter Games venues they will finance operations through a $110 million endowment provided by the federal and provincial governments and managed by the Games Operating Trust (GOT). Forty per cent of the endowment's investment earnings will go towards Whistler, an amount that currently stands at $42 million as a result of the recession.

But Bennett was quick to stress that while the society is a not-for-profit organization, it is also a not-for-loss.

His team is working on ways to bring in revenue over the next few years, including recreational skiing, corporate events and summer music festivals. They have several business plans that have morphed over the years, with a final business plan anticipated to come out towards the end of summer.

"Every dollar we have coming in is money we will invest in running these facilities and building the business behind them," said Bennett. "We need to build a business to support this organization in the long term rather than relying on the Games' endowment fund."

He said the society is eager to start operating the lodging at the athletes' centre as soon as possible because those are revenue opportunities he does not want to miss out on.

They will also be hiring a team of six trades people, including an electrician, as well as seasonal staff to further carry their operations.

"That will be the full time staff, and then beyond that there will be a large number of seasonal staff that goes up and down with the season and the level of business," said Bennett. "As you can imagine, Whistler Olympic Park will have everything from ski instructors to groomers."

Bennett moved into his role this spring, after a decade working for the Resort Municipality of Whistler. Currently, the society's only connection to the municipality is that the local government will appoint one person to the society's board of directors, said Bennett.

Beyond Bennett, the leadership team is composed of former municipal general manager Diane Mombourquette, vice president of corporate services, and Paul Shore, Todd Allison and Lindsay Scott Durno, directors of each of the three Olympic venues.