$2.5 million to operate Olympic venues 

Legacies society’s business plans being revised as funding falls short of expectations

click to enlarge Whistler Sliding Centre at July venue tour. Photo by coastphoto.com.
  • Whistler Sliding Centre at July venue tour. Photo by coastphoto.com.

The Olympic legacy trust fund will provide roughly $2.5 million in annual funding to operate the sliding centre and the Nordic centre after the 2010 Games.

That funding from the 2010 Games Operating Trust (GOT), set up in 2002, is less than anticipated in the original business plans for those venues.

That’s why the Whistler Legacies Society and the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games (VANOC) are still at the drawing board, revising those plans before making them public.

That work has been going on since May, when the funding split from the GOT was first announced.

“We realized then that there was not enough money in that GOT fund to support those business plans, so it really meant there need to be some revisions,” said Keith Bennett, general manager of resort experience and Whistler’s representative on the board of the legacies society.

The $2.5 million in annual funding is enough for the two venues to break even on the surface, said Bennett, but it does not take into account the overall management of the Whistler Legacies Society for things like an executive director and marketing the venues.

It also does not take into account the operation of the high performance training centre and associated housing, known as the Whistler Athletes’ Centre. That centre falls under the purview of the legacies society but is not eligible for the trust funding.

“The bottom line is all three of those facilities are really inter-connected between providing athletes’ beds, a training centre, as well as the venues, so they’re very tightly knitted together,” said Bennett.

The $2.5 million is the only secure revenue source for the venues after the Games. Any revenues generated by the venues will also be used to operate the facilities.

“That’s why it’s so important that the business plans take care of our core responsibilities first and then build programs that add real revenue to reduce the reliance on the trust,” said Bennett.

“I’m really hoping sometime in the next couple of months we’ll have those firmed up to the point where we can share them with the public.”

Councillor Eckhard Zeidler, who raised concerns about the missing business plans at the last council meeting when council was asked to approve the development permit for the athletes’ centre, reiterated his concerns this week.

“To me this is like driving a car looking in the rearview mirror,” said the councillor.

“Normally a business would develop their business plan first and then make decisions later.”

When asked about the plans at VANOC’s press conference on Friday, Terry Wright, executive vice president service operations and ceremonies, said the legacies society is working to complete them.

“This is the organization that will be responsible for the long term,” he said. “We’re assisting them, but they really do need to be their plans. And so we’ve completed drafts which they will work with over the upcoming months and then come forward to council and to all of the stakeholders once they’ve had time to make those plans their own.”

The resort municipality will not be on the hook for the venues should they lose money; that responsibility will fall to the legacies society board, of which Whistler has one seat of seven. Other partners include the provincial government, Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations, the Canadian Olympic Committee, the Canadian Paralympic Committee and VANOC.

The $110 GOT was established in November 2002 with the provincial and federal governments each kicking in $55 million. The fund had grown to $133.6 million by March 2007.

As outlined in the multi-party agreement, the GOT was created to support the $105 million Whistler Sliding Centre, the $119 million Nordic centre and the $178 million Richmond Speed Skating Oval.

In May the fund was divvied as follows:

• 40 per cent for the Speed Skating Oval fund

• 40 per cent for the sliding centre and Nordic centre fund

• 20 per cent contingency fund

“I have total confidence that they’re going to break even,” said Bennett of the Whistler venues. “It’s just that (the plans) were written in isolation and they didn’t really have enough information to finalize them when they wrote them, that’s all. So now they just need to be harmonized with real information that we now have.”

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