Through the roof and on to other things

Starting in the damp days of last autumn, through the soggy, dark weeks of January and now the terminally wet weather of early spring, British Columbia has developed an obsession with roofs. In a province infamous for leaky condos, the steady, predictable approach of the 2010 Olympics seems to have triggered some forgotten fear that Olympic visitors will get wet and mouldy. Two years before the big show, some people seem to have just remembered that it can rain around here.

There’s no question that it’s more comfortable to be dry than wet, and that the weather in south-west British Columbia can sometimes be very uncomfortable, but the timing of some of the ideas that have been floated recently is truly strange. And the money they would cost might be better left for… a rainy day.

Last week it was announced that PavCo, the Crown corporation that owns B.C. Place Stadium — site of the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2010 Olympics — plans to replace the roof before 2010. In fact, PavCo intends to have the new roof in place by November 2009, when the facility must be turned over to Olympic organizers.

That’s an ambitious schedule, considering a feasibility report on a new roof has not yet been completed. The business development manager for a Minneapolis company that has been asked to look at integrating a retractable roof into the stadium told the Vancouver Sun that $100 million “would be a good starting point” for a fixed fabric roof without a retractable section.

He also said the average time it takes to design and install such roofs is 36 months. The November 2009 deadline is possible but difficult, he added, especially since companies doing this type of work are extremely busy right now.

In January, word leaked out about a provincial proposal for a $42 million wooden roof over the revitalized outdoor ice rink in Robson Square. The plans apparently also include $20 million to revamp Robson Square and $23 million for an Asia-Pacific centre, all — presumably — to be done before 2010.

The province has since been conspicuously silent about the Robson Square roof, which apparently borrows from the theme of Whistler’s proposed iconic roof in that it is to be largely framed from wood and something of a showcase for B.C.’s forest industry.

Meanwhile the Whistler roof, which was unveiled last Oct. 18, is supposed to be the jewel of the 2010 Celebration Plaza, the now-forested Lot 1/9 in the village where Olympic and Paralympic medals will be presented and the closing ceremonies for the Paralympics will take place. The municipal budget for Celebration Plaza is $14 million. The price tag on Whistler’s roof and the skating rink beneath it was announced as $20 million. A fundraising campaign had until this month to find the $20 million.


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