Athletes village biz plan still not ready 

Stakeholders need more funds

It will be at least another few weeks before the group in charge of building Whistler’s 2010 Winter Olympic athletes village is ready to release its business plan.

Residents had hoped to see the draft plan at an open house on the athletes village held last week but the Whistler 2020 Development Corporation, the organization in charge of getting the village built, was not ready to release it.

Chair of the Corporation, Eric Martin, told a crowd of close to 60 people at the Spruce Grove Field House last week that the plan would be presented to council before the end of January.

"We are in the drafting stage now so we are looking at that plan in draft form being presented to council before the end of the month," he said.

The next council meeting is Jan. 23.

Top of mind for residents was how the athletes village and the legacy community it will leave behind will be paid for.

"This looks like a $150 million concept," said long-time resident Al Whitney, who has been active for years with the Whistler Mountain Ski Club and AWARE.

"If we have $40-or-so million where is the balance coming from for the rest?"

To date VANOC is contributing about $45.5 million toward the village and associated facilities. That includes $26 million for the village, $13 million for an athletes training centre, and $6.5 million towards housing for First Nations.

The hope is that the sale of the community homes left behind will bridge the gap between VANOC’s contribution and the final cost of the development.

Plans to sell all the homes, which are on a portion of a 300 acre parcel of land granted to the municipality by the province for affordable resident housing, have already had to be abandoned. Now the plan is to create a range of housing, some of which may be sold at or near market value.

Martin said it was likely that stakeholders would approach the provincial government in the coming weeks to ask that they relax its restrictions, which prohibit the municipality from selling land for full price to non-residents.

And, he said, he understands that the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Winter Games may be targeting more money for the athletes village.

"(VANOC is) part of our group and they have been seeing the preliminary numbers and we haven’t got to break even yet so they know there is a gap…," said Martin.

"(VANOC) has approached the federal and provincial governments for more funds. They haven’t been able to tell us how much is for Whistler yet but we know there is some."

If council, after looking at the corporation’s business plan, decides the economics can’t be made to work for the creation of a legacy community VANOC will have to go back to its bid book plan and build a temporary trailer-park type village.

"We all want the legacy to work, all of us," said Mark Cutler, VANOC’s director of villages development at the meeting.

"As a representative of VANOC I want the best for Whistler, but I have that short term obligation to look after athletes as well."

Cutler said the $45.5 million is just enough to build a temporary facility.

"Right at the moment, it is close, very close," he said.

It’s likely a temporary village would be built at a site below the landfill, as it would not require the same amount of site preparation.

"It is not an avenue we want to go down, but we do need to look at everything," said Cutler.

If the village is temporary the athletes training centre would not be built and the money designated for that would be folded into the cost of putting up a temporary village.

In total 278 to 300 units are required to accommodate the 3,000 athletes and officials for the Games. The athletes training centre is a series of 31 townhouses and a hotel site of 50 rooms. It would function primarily as the dining hall during Olympics and Paralympics.

Despite these challenges Martin said all the stakeholders, including VANOC, are determined to see a legacy community built.

"If we end up with temporary buildings I think it would be a travesty, an absolute travesty," said Martin.

"So we are going to do everything we can to make sure we get a legacy village."

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