Olympic legacy package becomes clearer 

The final legacy package for Whistler has been settled on, for now.

It brings $273 million to the resort for new facilities, upgrades to existing ones, and endowments for others.

But it does not set in stone the provincial government’s agreement to expand the municipal boundaries or give the resort new financial tools.

Instead the Highlights of the Lasting Legacies for Whistler document states: "The B.C. government is examining the potential for new financial tools…" and is committed to pursuing "expansion of municipal boundaries in conjunction with key stakeholders."

That’s commitment enough for Mayor Hugh O’Reilly.

"I am comfortable that we have commitments to everything the community should be concerned about," he said.

Also, according to the document, the Whistler Conference Centre will no longer be getting $14 million for Phase II renovations, should the Games come to town.

Instead the financial commitment has been reduced to $3 million.

The money will come from the $620 million already promised by senior levels of government for facilities and venue upgrading and construction.

"It was thought at this point that the legacy of new resident and employee housing required more of a commitment and the other project required a smaller commitment," said Sam Corea, spokesman for the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation.

"This is all a result of the discussions between the resort municipality the Bid Corporation and all the interested parties working together to come up with a package on the lasting legacies for Whistler."

But the $11 million didn’t disappear. Ten million of it has been moved over the pay for the athlete’s village slated for the Callaghan Valley.

The village will now get $30 million, along with another $13 million for the development of an athlete’s centre.

"It is a prudent move to make sure there is enough funding for the village so that anything that shows up that they haven’t been able to foresee will be covered," said Mayor Hugh O’Reilly.

"I think the idea is that if in fact it can be done for less then the funding could be shifted back over to the conference centre."

O’Reilly believes the value of an environmentally sensitive conference centre may be unclear at the moment.

"I think the value of the conference centre is still not as well understood so it will be upon us to demonstrate how those environmental improvements in the building are a great testimony to our whole bid process," he said.

"…We are never going to give up on Phase II. I mean there is still a lot of work to do to demonstrate the importance of that even within our own community.

"I think it is a timing issue."

The athlete’s centre will allow "development of accommodation for athletes to allow ongoing training and hosting of world cups with a dedicated accommodation base."

Also included in the legacy package is a parcel of land, up to 300 acres, to be used as a land bank for resident housing in the future. The land bank will be in the Callaghan.

The proposed multi-complex/entertainment centre is slated to get $20 million. It would be located on Lots 1 and 9 behind the current Olympic information centre and used for Paralympic events.

If the municipality decides not to move ahead with the complex the money would be used to upgrade the Meadow Park Sports Centre.

The Nordic Centre in the Callaghan will get an investment of $102 million, the bob/luge track will get $55 million and there will be a $50 million endowment fund to assist with the operation of both these facilities after the Games.

The money for the upgrade to the downhill events on Whistler and Blackcomb has yet to be finalized and was not included in this document. In the mini Bid Book it was estimated they would cost $9.3 million US.

Other legacies listed in the document include partnership opportunities with First Nations people and the provincial government for the benefit of the provincial economy and partnerships with the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee for youth and sport development.

It is also expected that over 3 billion people worldwide will tune in to watch the Games as they unfold on television.

The municipality is fully indemnified by the Province of B.C. against the cost of the Olympics and has stated there will be no increased property taxes to pay for the Games.

More information on the legacies is available on the municipal Web site at www.whistler.ca , and the Oct. 21 council meeting will be devoted to discussion of the Olympics.

The meeting will start at 6 p.m. and will be held at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. Both council and members of the Olympic Bid Corporation will make presentations on the legacies and take questions and comments from the floor.

It’s likely that at the end of the meeting council will vote on whether or not to endorse the Games coming to Whistler.


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