Time for arena decision looms 

Councillors offer their perspectives after open house

With only 30 days left to make a decision on the multi-million dollar Paralympic arena, council’s time is quickly melting away.

In an effort to ensure they make the best decision for the community, Councillor Kristi Wells is preparing to ask council to approve a formal request to the Vancouver Organizing Committee to delay the decision on the arena for six more months.

She wants to explain to VANOC that there simply hasn’t been enough time to consult the community and a six-month extension could alleviate some concerns and allow council to make the most effective decision.

"That’s what I want as part of the letter to VANOC to say – that our council didn’t engage the community enough and we were sidetracked with the time it was taking to create a different opportunity and we did not engage in a parallel (public consultation) process," she said this week.

"We’re accepting accountability for this and we’re asking for you (VANOC), so that we ensure that this isn’t a white elephant, that it’s truly the legacy that was intended and it makes the best Games possible, to give us a six month extension."

She plans to make her request at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Wells isn’t the only councillor worried about the time constraints of this weighty decision.

By Sept. 30, council must decide on one of three options:

• take $20 million from VANOC and build an arena; or

• forgo building the arena altogether and take $2 million from VANOC; or

• take $8 million from VANOC and build a $10 million ice sheet at Meadow Park.

Though the third option has been the result of seven-month long negotiations between VANOC and Squamish, the local community just learned of the details of what’s proposed at the Aug. 15 council meeting.

Essentially the option was to divvy up the $20 million from VANOC.

The Paralympic arena – along with $8 million – would go to Squamish, another $8 million would go to Whistler for a second ice sheet at Meadow Park, and the remaining $4 million would go towards enhancements to the athletes centre in the Lower Cheakamus.

For months that agreement was worked on during in camera sessions as the municipality looked for approvals from the federal and provincial governments and the International Paralympic Committee.

The details of the deal could not be made public, much to the frustration of many community members. Several councillors are now expressing some regret that the deal was not made public sooner.

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