Athlete Centre budget showing strain 

Council approves development permit for VANOC facility

By Alison Taylor

The multi-million dollar budget for the Olympic high performance athlete centre in Whistler’s athletes’ village is under pressure before work even begins.

At Tuesday’s meeting council approved a development permit for the 20,000 square foot facility, which will be built by the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Winter Games (VANOC).

When asked about the budget, VANOC’s project manager Sean Rodrigues said: “I’ll be honest with you, the budget is extremely challenged.”

When pushed by Councillor Tim Wake for a figure Rodrigues said the centre is around $7.5 million — or roughly 375 per square foot.

That does not include the neighbouring athlete accommodation building, which will be coming forward to council in a separate application.

VANOC has budgeted $16 million for the athletes’ centre, including the lodging. It is part of its commitment to Canadian sport and will be a legacy for local, national and international athletes who come to Whistler to train.

The municipality will be kicking in $2 million over the next three years for what will become the community’s permanent gymnasium facility in the centre.

It will also include a weight room, offices and meeting rooms and an area for equipment storage for the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program.

The building is intended to be a hub in the athletes’ village.

Council was not without comments on the building, questioning why it does not appear to be maximizing solar gains.

Rodrigues explained that the local gymnastics club wanted to minimize the direct sunlight.

The facility will be a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) building, built to silver standard due in part to plans to use heat from the nearby sewage plant in the building.

Mayor Ken Melamed commented that they should try to look for ways to bump up the facility to a LEED gold standard.

In the 2006 business plan for the athletes’ village it states that the centre is targeted to be operational from October 2008 and will provide accommodation for athletes training and competing in Whistler prior to, during, and after the 2010 Games.

The designs for the lodging component of the centre were delivered to municipal hall this week. They too will be coming before council for approval in the weeks to come.

The plan states:

“The Whistler Athlete Centre will provide accommodation in a variety of housing forms, including townhouses and an athlete accommodation building, containing smaller hotel-type rooms, to flexibly accommodate athletes for training and events, and in order to accommodate approximately 360 athlete beds in Games mode.”

The athlete centre is the first building in the $130 million athletes’ village to come before council for approval.

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