Legacies society takes control of Olympic venues 

President searches for funding to make ends meet this year


The legacy society will be operating on a shoestring budget this year now that Olympic organizers have officially handed over their Whistler venues.

While there was little fanfare for the midnight changeover on May 31, the date marks a major milestone for the Whistler Sliding Centre, Whistler Olympic Park and the Whistler Athletes' Centre.

The venues are now officially under the control of the Whistler 2010 Sport Legacies.

"It does feel like a beginning," said President and CEO Keith Bennett.

"In a way VANOC (the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games) has always been like Big Brother - whenever we were in doubt, phone VANOC and they'll answer the questions. Well, now there are fewer and fewer people answering the phone!"

With the changeover comes the stark realization that there is not enough funding at the moment to run the venues.

The two sport venues - the sliding centre and the Nordic centre - will have just over one million dollars between them to operate this year.

"It's not enough to run these venues at this point," admitted Bennett.

He is hoping to see some funding help from the provincial government this year.

"We're working with our partners, with the provincial government, to help us get through these first parts," said Bennett.

It's no small task, he added, to build the business case that would bring in what he estimates is a few more million dollars needed to sustain operations.

"Our job is to find other revenues, build a business around it that helps support them as well," he said.

"Our real goal is, number one, to reach that steady state in operations where we are self-sufficient with the trust funding. Our second goal is really to move beyond that where we build enough business where the trust money can be re-invested in the venues and in program."

The board for the Games Operating Trust (GOT), the trust fund created to support some of the Olympic legacy venues, met on Monday and Bennett said there would be $2.196 million coming from the fund this year, down slightly over last year.

The chair of the 2010 GOT Society board, James Bruce, was not available for comment this week.

Of that $2.196 million, VANOC will get 43 per cent for its operations until the end of May and the legacy organization will get the remainder, roughly $1.2 million.

Primarily the legacy organization's goal this year is to continue building its team.

It's trying new ways to raise revenues, too.

The sliding centre will open to the public on June 25. There will be a range of tours in the facility from the basic $7 general admission to the $69 "behind the scenes" tour that includes walking the track and checking out the start house at the top.

The centre will then move into sport mode in the fall as it ramps up for national and international team training in the lead up to the bobsleigh and skeleton FIBT World Cup in November.

Whistler Olympic Park, on the other hand, will likely remain closed for business this summer while VANOC continues to demobilize in the area.

It will reopen for Nordic skiing next season.

Next summer, however, could bring kid camps, corporate retreats, concerts, among other things, to the area. There are also plans to create more of a family camping experience at the Madeley Lake campground, which would in turn discourage raves there.

"We're still exploring what we might do up there (in the summer time)," said Bennett.

As for the Whistler Athletes' Centre - the high performance gym, the lodge and the townhouses with more than 300 beds - it does not qualify for GOT funding.

Tenants are moving into the townhouses this week and by the end of the summer Whistler Gymnastics and the Canadian Sport Centre Pacific will move into the gym.



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