Municipality considering options for Paralympic arena 

Decisions on size, location, cost and post-Games use all being evaluated

Whistler is in the final stages of deciding where to locate the sledge hockey arena for the 2010 Paralympic Games.

The Paralympics, which will be held solely in Whistler, will be held in March of 2010 following the Olympic Games, which will run Feb. 12 through 28, 2010.

In the Olympic bid book the sledge hockey arena, which must hold 2,500 to 5,000 people, was located in a yet to be built multi-purpose complex on Lots 1 and 9.

This parcel of land is located on the undeveloped area behind the current Olympic information office in Village North.

However, the language in the bid book allowed for the municipality to explore other sites depending on what was deemed best for the community.

"You have to look at the long term benefit," said municipal deputy administrator Bill Barratt.

"What you are constructing is a facility that is going to be there for the Games. But what is its use after the Games and what are the needs and wants of the community in the long term? That’s what we are working on to determine."

For that reason the municipality decided to explore what the sledge hockey facility might look like as an addition to Meadow Park Sports Centre.

Not only might an addition match Whistler’s growth more realistically it would be considerably cheaper than the $40 million the multi-purpose complex in the village was expected to cost.

Although half of the money for the complex was to come out of the capital expenditures budget for the Games, the other $20 million would have to be raised by the municipality.

"Obviously we don’t have the wherewithal to develop Lot 1 and 9 in the village so you would be into a public-private partnership, and those are significant decisions to make," said Barratt.

As part of this planning process the resort has hired an architect, funded by the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC), to draw up plans for the Meadow Park addition.

It’s expected a full report will be made to council in July.

While details are still to be worked out it’s likely that most of the seating will be temporary and that new community space will be available in the new arena.

There are a host of reasons why locating the sledge hockey arena at Meadow Park is a good idea said Barratt.

It makes sense for users who come from Pemberton; visitors to the resort are turning up in greater and greater numbers to the sports centre; it would make sense to keep the administration of sports complexes in the community centralized; and families currently utilizing Meadow Park can do several activities all at the same time.

"This is all just very conceptual," said Barratt, adding that this is a planning year and a chance for the municipality to gather as much data as it can before deciding which path to take.

The plans will also be transferable said Barratt, so that if the resort decided to build the sledge hockey facility beside the athlete’s village there would be no need to do a second set of designs.

According to the venue agreement the resort has until July 2005 to begin construction on this facility.

But the push is on.

"As you know there is a lot of construction going on in this province," said Barratt.

"In the best case scenario we would hope to have a site selected this summer and get through that so we can look at where we are going and get going with design and so on.

"We would like to be out of the gate first so that you are out into the market from a tendering perspective, and we also have to plan for test events and so on.

"So it would be nice to have it up and into construction by summer 2005.

"But I want to get all the information and look at it first."

Once the plans are in there will be a chance for public input said Barratt, who believes the Paralympics represents a unique opportunity for the resort.

"I am really excited about the whole Paralympic concept," he said.

"Everyone talks about the Olympics but for Whistler we have to realize that we are going to host the Paralympics entirely in the resort and I think it will be really good for the community and I hope everyone will get involved."

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