Medals Plaza reconstruction starts in May 

Second version will include a performance pavilion, large lawn and bigger playground


Residents can expect to see huge changes unravel at Whistler Medals Plaza this spring as construction crews transform the area from an Olympic venue to a community meeting place.

The area where thousands of spectators gathered every night during the Olympics to watch the likes of Jon Montgomery and Canada's men's and women's bobsleigh teams receive their medals, and musicians like Usher perform, will be converted into an outdoor park by the summer of 2011.

"I think Whistler has an incredible legacy here," said Martin Pardoe, manager of resort parks and open space planning for the municipality. "Trying to distill the key Olympic memories and moments, both good and bad, onto the site is a real exciting part of the development of this project."

Changes begin as soon as the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) gives the plaza back to the municipality on April 30.

By May 3, the municipality hopes to start removing the asphalt and grading the land for its post-Olympic redevelopment.

Bidding on Request for Proposals (RFP) for the work to kick off Medal Plaza's metamorphous closed on Wednesday. The RFP was issued electronically on Feb. 18 to known corridor contractors and was posted on the municipality's website shortly thereafter.

"VANOC's security fence will be removed by VANOC, and the contractor for the municipality will install a construction fence around the site," said Pardoe. "It will look much like it did prior to VANOC appearing on the site."

Another visible change taking place this spring will be the dismantling of the giant stage by VANOC.

In its place, Pardoe said a performance pavilion will be erected. Details on the pavilion were released at a council meeting last December. The pavilion will have a flexible roof and be large enough to allow gatherings of up to 550 people seated or 1,000 people standing.

Last-minute plans for the pavilion were drafted after stakeholders, local community groups and event producers told the municipality that their original plans for an amphitheatre wouldn't work well for large concerts or festivals, said Pardoe.

And because the pavilion is more complicated to design and build, said Pardoe, the timeline for the project has been pushed back to the summer of 2011.

"The intent is we will not go back to council to start work on the lawn area until we have firm costs for the pavilion, so we know we have a high degree of certainty about the budget and that we are within budget," said Pardoe.

The project budget remains at $13.6 million total, with just over $4 million coming from the municipality's hotel tax.

Over the next year and a half, residents will see a large lawn installed at Medals Plaza, the Olympic cauldron relocated, the playground double in size, and a series of stairs created.

A call for artists to create something that includes "Games memories, interpretive information and emotional information" will also be issued by the municipality in April. The budget for that project is $200,000.

Among the Olympic memories that municipal planners want to capture are recognition of athletes and volunteers, the key stories of the Games, Whistler's journey towards the Games and Whistler's journey beyond the Games and toward sustainability, said Pardoe.

Those memories and interpretive pieces could be anything from stories to art work to video or photographic work.

"The municipality sent out a heads up to public artists prior to the Games saying we had a significant project to undertake post-Games that basically captures Whistlers Games time experiences," said Parode. "What that gets translated into on the site remains to be seen."

A memorial for Nodar Kumaritashvili, the Georgian luger who died at the Whistler Sliding Centre on Feb. 12, will also be created on Medals Plaza.



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