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Squamish prevails on Whistler for arena decision

Mayor says Whistler waited too long

Whistler’s delay on the Paralympic arena may be the corridor’s loss, said Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland this week.

"My fear is that Whistler has already delayed this way beyond what’s reasonable and if they keep on delaying this then it’s going to be impossible for anybody else to build a rink in time for 2010 and that means it’s probably going to end up at UBC or GM Place and the Paralympics will probably all go to Vancouver with it and it’s going to be a tremendous loss for the corridor," said the Squamish mayor this week.

More than a year ago Sutherland almost had a deal that would have put the Paralympic arena in Squamish. That deal fell off the table when the resort community demanded proper consultation on the arena decision-making.

After community consultation this year the costs may still be too large to build the arena in Whistler. And Sutherland still wants a crack at it.

"Whistler has always said they want things to be in the corridor and now is their chance to step up to the plate and give us a shot at it because if this drags on much longer then no one’s going to have a choice but to put it in Vancouver."

He said as recently as six months ago he still had a partner willing to build the arena for $20 million. He also said there is a very good chance Squamish could have a long-term tenant to help with the annual operating costs of running the rink.

But in the continued absence of a decision one way or the other from Whistler, his frustration in what he sees as a lost opportunity for his town is growing. And he’s calling on Whistler to make a decision.

"Clearly there’s another arena needed in the corridor and clearly having the Paralympic hockey in the corridor is a good thing for somebody and if Whistler can do that, more power to them," said the mayor. "But if they can’t do it, for goodness sake’s say so and let somebody else take a shot at it."