Arena figures questioned 

Whistler business group put forward alternative plans for Lots 1 and 9

Would a Paralympic arena in Whistler Village really cost $58 million? Some Whistler business people are so skeptical they’ve gone looking for alternatives, and found Vernon’s multiplex.

Opened in 2001, the 3,006-seat Greater Vernon Multiplex is home to the Vernon Vipers junior hockey team. Built over 14 months, the completed facility can be converted from a NHL-sized ice surface to the wider international hockey surface. It has also been designed to hold up to 5,650 people for a concert, has seven dressing rooms, a boardroom and a "Grand Room" for meetings, banquets and parties.

The completed building cost $15 million.

"If you add 20 per cent to that for inflation, another 15 per cent for labour, concrete and engineering the roof for the snow load in Whistler – that’s a 35 per cent increase over 2000," said Don Wensley, who researched the Vernon facility. "It’s still right around $20 million, and that makes their $58 million figure impossible to believe."

The $58 million facility was the largest and most expensive option for the Paralympic facility presented to Whistler council in a staff report last week. The $58 million facility was a 5,000-seat arena with underground parking for 135 cars on Lots 1 and 9 in the village.

Other options presented last week were less expensive, but the staff recommendation is that Whistler council forego the Paralympic facility altogether and seek an $8 million contribution by VANOC toward a practice rink next to the existing rink at Meadow Park.

If Whistler does not build the Paralympic arena Squamish would like to. The District of Squamish released results of a poll this week that found 67 per cent of residents surveyed support building the arena in that community. The release also stated the total cost of the facility in Squamish would be approximately $18 million, with VANOC contributing between $9 million and $11 million and the balance being funded by Squamish and an operating partner.

If Whistler decides it does want the Paralympic sledgehockey facility it will receive $20 million from VANOC.

The issue will be the subject of an open house this Saturday, Aug. 27, between 2 and 7 p.m. at the Spruce Grove field house.

But Wensley and Norbert Roche are among those who don’t accept the municipality’s figures. Wensley, who has been involved in real estate and development in Whistler for more than two decades, said: "Our goal is to have this situation revisited and investigated in a fair manor before a decision is made.

"This can be done for less than half the cost they are telling us – unless the specifications are insane."

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