Whistler could have its own walk of fame 

But the question is, who will pay for it?


Perhaps the most imaginative idea to roll out from the Olympic Legacy machine has earned the support of the municipality but has hit one major problem: money.

The idea: bronze statues of winter athletes installed throughout the Village. Imagine a bobsled team ready to take off out front of the Bread Garden or Jon Montgomery perpetually clutching a pitcher of beer in the Village Square. Bronze figures allow people to interact with the setting in a visceral way, which is why Vancouver-based development consultant Jim Moodie pitched the idea to the Resort Municipality of Whistler to begin with.

"It's just something that people gravitate towards," Moodie says. "It's not even about art for Whistler. It's about the athletes, it's about recognizing the achievement."

Mayor Ken Melamed said shortly after a meeting with Moodie on Monday that council and the municipality fully support the project. The main hurdle is money - how can Whistler fund a project like this in a "challenging funding climate."

"The first principle is there is no municipal money, so it has to stand on its own," Melamed says.

"Not to throw cold water on it but in my years here I've seen a gazillion great ideas fall flat because it sounds like a good idea to us but when you actually go out and try to find the money, you come up against a series of 'no's."

But Moodie - who has been involved in Whistler's development since its early days as a budding resort town and has volunteered for the Whistler Development Corporation - says he initially hasn't received the overwhelming municipal support he had expected.

"I actually thought, in my naïve way, that the mayor or somebody on council, would say, 'This is a good idea for Whistler and we're going to champion this thing and make it happen,'" he says.

The other major hurdle is finding that champion. It would be purely pro bono and it's unlikely the municipality will set aside any money in the 2011 budget to pay a staff member to take the project.

But all he says he is asking for is some staff time to work out the necessary approvals. Even though each statue is estimated to cost $100,000 each, he's optimistic that the entire project can be funded 100 per cent through sponsorship.

He has yet to pursue any companies for sponsorship but he says there are two obvious "no-brainer" projects to shoot for: a BC Hydro-sponsored statue of their employee and five-time Paralympic-medal-winning, Lauren Woolstencroft, and a beer-company-sponsored Montgomery statue.

The idea wasn't Moodie's at all, but came from former Attorney-General Geoff Plant when he and Moodie were in Hong Kong during a stopover from Nepal last November. While there, the pair visited the world-famous Avenue of the Stars, which features bronze statues of filmmakers along the waterfront, including, most famously, Bruce Lee in a kung fu pose. Plant noticed the hordes crowding around the statue, simulating their own kung fu poses for pictures.

Moodie remembers, "(Plant) said, 'Y'know what? This is crazy. We just had the Olympics, we've got all these famous athletes and nobody's really done anything to acknowledge them."

Moodie pitched the idea in December to Public Arts Committee, a council-appointed committee comprised of artists, designers and other Whistler citizens, tasked with creating a vision for public art throughout the town. It has thrown its full support behind the project as of its January meeting and Whistler could have the beginnings of a walk of fame completed by the end of 2011, although the where's and what's of the project have yet to be ironed out.

Kevin McFarland, parks planner for the RMOW, who sits on the Public Arts Committee, said finding space in the Village is challenging due to snow clearing in the winter and the busy animation and pedestrian traffic.

"Finding those little niches where the sculpture would be safe is always a challenge," he says, "but that's fine. When it gets to that point where there's a real project in the works, we'll make that happen."

Melamed says the municipality will have to be a facilitator because they are responsible for all planning in the Village.

"Any time anything goes on in the Village, like it or not, it's on our land and so we would be, by definition, intimately involved in the location and planning of this," he says.

He noted that if and when the project gets going, it could foster some competition among sponsors.

"It could be that if we have a limited number of statues, once we get the first two up and let's say there're 10, maybe the final 8 will have to go to bids and auction because there's such high interest," he says. "That would be our dream. As Jim said, that would be a good problem to have."



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