Arena concepts draw a crowd 

Four concepts for Paralympic facility generally well received

Lot 1/9 ”…Four concepts for Lot 1/9 were presented at the March 4 workshop.”

More than 200 people attended Saturday’s public forum on Lots 1 & 9, where four concepts for a Paralympic arena and surrounding buildings were presented.

“Lots 1 and 9 are close to the centre of the whole valley,” said Eldon Beck, who began his involvement with the design of Whistler Village in 1978. “If this becomes the heart or the centre of Whistler, that would be wonderful.”

The four concepts — dubbed The Solar Rink, The Sunny Island, The Mountain Tent and The Frozen River — were developed by a team that includes Beck, Mark Lakeman, Bruce Hemstock , municipal staff and a panel of community members, based on public feedback from a January workshop.

“Intangibles are things you can’t measure,” Beck told the workshop Saturday. “Good planning starts with intangibles, and I think the list of words and values that came out of the January workshop — ‘authentic,’ ‘magical,’ ‘animated’ — are intangibles.”

An arena is the centerpiece of each of the four concepts, with a public plaza or gathering space outside the arena. Each concept maintains a tree buffer along Blackcomb Way.

Three of the arena concepts include free-form ice shapes that would accommodate an International Ice Hockey Federation-sized arena for the Paralympics but would also convey the idea of a frozen pond or stream. Temporary bleacher seating could be provided for the Paralympics and other special events but benches, logs, rocks and other informal features around the arena would provide seating at other times.

In addition to skating, the arena has the potential to host cultural events, conferences, festivals and other recreational events.

A variety of mixed use buildings surround the south and west flanks of the arena in each concept. No specific uses were identified for the buildings. Instead, they were identified as mixed community commercial, with commercial accommodation on the second floor, or community services institutional, possibly including employee housing above. Total square footage of the mixed use buildings ranged from nearly 80,000 square feet in the Solar Rink concept, to approximately 54,000 square feet in the Sunny Island concept.

“I think generally people were very supportive of the direction we’re going,” said Mike Kirkegaard, Senior Planner with the municipality. “This is an important project, and I think people appreciate being involved. And we can still address ideas; we’re at the concept stage.”

Kirkegaard said there is lots of work still to do, as far as programming, architecture, financing and sustainability.

The total development on Lots 1 & 9 is intended to be a showcase for sustainable practices.

No capital or operating costs have been determined for any of the concepts presented, but Kirkegaard said officials are pursuing additional sources of capital funding. These include money VANOC has set aside for a medals plaza in Whistler and provincial funds through the Olympic Live Sites program. As well, there are various government grants for “Green” building projects that may be available.

VANOC will provide Whistler with $20 million towards the cost of an arena for the Paralympic sledge hockey.

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