VANOC offers more time after staff negotiations 

Council to decide on 30-day extension at next meeting

Whistler needs more time to make a decision on the Paralympic arena, and VANOC is prepared to offer a 30-day extension.

The offer comes after staff negotiations between the Vancouver Organizing Committee and the Resort Municipality of Whistler, said VANOC spokesperson Renée Smith-Valade.

"We mutually agreed (the extension) would be beneficial to both sides," she said.

Council must now decide on Monday if they will accept the new Oct. 31 deadline on the arena.

"VANOC obviously recognizes the challenge that we have put ourselves in and in an effort to try and help us has obviously offered this," said Councillor Kristi Wells, adding she was taken aback by the news, which was delivered to council via e-mail.

Only last week Wells asked council to approve a request to VANOC for a six-month extension. Her motion was defeated 4 to 3, with only Councillors Gordon McKeever and Marianne Wade standing behind the six-month request.

"It’s great to have an extension but it appears that the reality of the extension is staff isn’t ready… at all for a report (to be presented) on Monday," said Wells.

Councillor Nick Davies said staff needs more time to prepare all the information council has asked for in recent weeks, particularly the cost analysis of two new arena concepts, recently put forward.

"It was clear to staff that council wanted more information," said Davies. "I think staff recognized that they would need more time to bring a meaningful report back to council."

Staff was to have prepared a report, complete with their recommendation, to council at the Monday, Sept. 19 council meeting. This would have allowed council to make a decision on the arena before the last deadline – Sept. 30.

A press release issued this week states: "The extension would enable municipal staff to pursue in further detail the various options, including one put forward by a local business owner, and for more public input."

This decision to build a 3,500-seat arena to hold the Paralympic sledge hockey events in 2010 has plagued council throughout the summer. This is their second extension as they wrestle with a decision, which could have lasting impacts on the resort community.

Essentially it comes down to three choices:

• take VANOC’s $20 million and build an arena, which could cost double or in some cases triple that cost;

• take VANOC’s $2 million and do nothing; or

• take $8 million and build a second ice sheet at Meadow Park.

Municipal staff earlier advised council that their preferred option was to take $8 million for the second ice sheet. Since then however, a local businessman has offered up another option, which would see a non-traditional style arena in the heart of the village. Staff is now investigating this option.

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