Teddy Bear Daycare to close one month early 

Olympic blackout period at MY Millennium Place has nothing to do with it, says mayor

Daycare in Whistler just took another hit.

Teddy Bear Daycare will permanently close its doors at MY Millennium Place on May 31 this year, one month before the lease expires.

The announcement comes just days after the Whistler Children's Centre ended all programs at Spring Creek daycare as a cost-cutting measure.

Teddy Bear operators Whistler Blackcomb made the decision after MY Millennium Place Society confirmed it would not renew the lease.

"As things wind down, we are just going to close it up and remove our items from that building," said Otto Kamstra from Whistler Blackcomb.

"We did try to negotiate a longer term lease with them (MY Millennium Place) and were denied. We were indicated that there is a rental for the Olympics forthcoming, and their intentions were to turn it into an arts facility following the Olympics."

Whistler Blackcomb started operating the daycare last summer on a temporary basis with a 12-month lease.

At that time, MY Millennium Place Society had decided its focus on arts and culture did not include daycare. But public outcry from local parents caused the society to allow a third-party to operate the service for a limited time period.

"We have enjoyed operating it," said Kamstra.

"One of the challenges we found was the lease was up, and they (parents) want to have child care were they can drop off their kids and feel secure in the long term. They aren't willing to commit to that kind of short lease."

But during his mayor's report at Tuesday's council meeting, Ken Melamed stressed the Olympics have nothing to do with Teddy Bear's closed doors. He said the municipality is planning an "Olympic blackout" period for MY Place between January and March next year, but the daycare could have worked around that, if MY Millennium Place Society had renewed the lease.

"The blackout period is something that might have been worked around, but the reality is that the long-term lease was not on the table," said Melamed.

"People have been approaching us since we won the bid... Our approach has not ever been around a specific opportunity, but protecting the possibility of realizing that opportunity. Had we negotiated a lease without a blackout period, we wouldn't have the option."

Dennis Marriot, general manager of MY Millennium Place, confirmed that several people have approached the society to rent out the multi-use building during the Games. Some memorandums of understanding have been signed.

"We do have a number of proposals for Games-time related uses that have expressed interest, and we are at various stages in pursuing those," said Marriot.

"I certainly imagine, just with the interest, that all or some of the building will be repurposed for Games-time use, but there are no commitments made to date."

Teddy Bear Daycare first opened in 2001 to meet a perceived need in the community of more after-hours, weekend and tourist drop-in childcare.

Meanwhile, the municipality is scheduled to take over ownership of MY Place from the Whistler Interfaith Society today, Thursday March 5.

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