Squamish residents want arena 

Paralympic sledge hockey facility would cost $18 million

If Whistler decides to pass on the option of building a Paralympic sledge hockey arena, there are plenty of takers in the community of Squamish.

In a phone survey of 300 Squamish residents conducted by Mustel Group, 67 per cent of respondents said they support the facility in the community. The survey is accurate plus-or-minus 5.7 per cent with a 95 per cent level of confidence.

"The survey confirms what we have been hearing from our citizens – bring the Paralympic arena to Squamish," Mayor Ian Sutherland said in a release. "We look forward to working with Whistler and VANOC to make the dream of a new arena in Squamish a reality."

The price tag on a Paralympic arena in Squamish is approximately $18 million, according to the release.

Whistler has not yet officially passed on building the arena, although municipal staff made that recommendation at the Aug. 15 council meeting. There will be a public open house on the issue this Saturday, Aug. 27 at the Spruce Grove field house, from 2 to 7 p.m. Council is expected to make the final decision on whether to build an arena by the end of September.

However, the Vancouver Organizing Committee will have the final say on where to build the facility, and is not commenting until Whistler makes its decision. However, Squamish Councillor and acting mayor Sonja Lebans says the community is in discussions with VANOC, and they have been positive.

"They were saying this would be a good fit and could we do it, that’s more how the discussions were worded," said Lebans, adding that the ongoing talks between Whistler and Squamish have VANOC support.

The deal that VANOC, Whistler and Squamish are negotiating would see the $20 million VANOC has earmarked for the arena split between the two communities. Whistler would get $8 million to help build a second ice sheet at Meadow Park, a Paralympic practice arena, and possibly another $4 million to enhance the Olympic athletic centre planned for the athletes village.

Squamish would receive between $9 million and $11 million for building the arena there, approximately half of the estimated $18 million price tag for a 2,500 seat arena beside Brennan Park Recreational Centre.

The RMOW report on the arena did not explain why it would cost between $43.4 million and $58 million to build a Paralympic Arena in Whistler Village, or $31.5 million to $40.2 million to build the arena in Meadow Park or by the athletes centre.

Lebans said the $18 million figure is accurate, as was the suggestion that the District of Squamish would only be on the hook for 25 per cent, or approximately $4.5 million, of the total cost. The remainder of the money, between $2.5 million and $4.5 million, would come from a public-private partnership.

One potential partner has been identified, but the negotiations will be kept secret until a partner can be confirmed.

Ongoing talks to bring the Chilliwack Chiefs Junior A hockey team to Squamish, are also progressing.

Following a decision from Whistler and approval from VANOC, Lebans says construction could start almost immediately. The goal would be to have the arena completed by 2007.

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