Wildwood to become workforce coordination centre 

Whistler Racquet Club site will also house workers, provide parking for 250 vehicles

Whistler Racquet Club's building, which houses Wildwood Bar and Bistro, will be converted into an Olympic workforce coordination centre, VANOC officials confirmed this week.

The owner of the building, Vancouver-based Holborn Holdings Ltd., has rented the space to VANOC between Jan. 2 and April 1 next year. During that period, the tennis club will be closed to the public and Wildwood will provide catering exclusively to Olympic workers.

The coordination centre will be a place where workers can eat and relax in between their Games-time shifts, said VANOC.

Sam White, director of operations for Wildwood, said she is excited to help feed VANOC's workers and volunteers, even though her company prides itself on being a locals' restaurant.

"We are a locals' restaurant, and we wanted to stay open for the locals during the Olympics," said White.

"In the situation we are in - because we are part of the tennis club and we had to follow their commitment to VANOC - what became exciting for us is that we are going to be serving all the volunteers."

It is an opportunity for Wildwood to maintain its connection to locals because they realize a lot of the volunteers are Whistler residents and are going to be working hard to make the Olympics happen, she said.

White added, however, Wildwood's Elements restaurant and their café in Function Junction will both be open to the public throughout the Games.

"We are not doing buy-outs, although we have been approached," she said. "We made a conscious decision that we want to stay open for our regulars."

Not everyone is onboard with the arrangement to close down the tennis and restaurant facility for four months. Specifically, the Whistler Valley Tennis Club has several concerns they want addressed, said committee member John Konig.

Konig explained that the committee wants to make sure some of the money that Holborn will receive by renting out the building will go towards maintaining the racquet club's aging tennis courts. They are also worried about how the deal will impact the tennis club's regular staff.

"I think it is an important issue that this large facility and amenity is being rented out obviously for profit," said Konig.  "We are not asking for much, just ongoing maintenance and some consideration to the employees. Those are our two main points."

The Whistler Racquet Club sits next to the plot of land where VANOC will build a large Britco, temporary housing complex and 250 parking spots. Another temporary housing complex, built by private developer Alvaro Ponce de Leon, is also slated to go on the Holborn property.

On Tuesday council approved - in a 5-2 vote - both temporary housing complexes, which could house a combined 660 people.

Councillors Eckhard Zeidler and Grant Lamont voted against VANOC's application because they are concerned about how much parking the Olympic organization has already requested in Whistler for Games-time.

Jacquie Murdoch, vice president of service and accommodation for VANOC, said she was happy to see VANOC's 260-person temporary housing complex approved.

"We are very pleased that Whistler council is supporting our planned use of the Holborn property," said Murdoch.

"This agreement enables VANOC to house a significant portion of our workforce directly in Whistler, and we are confident the workforce presence will have a positive impact on the Whistler economy."

Meanwhile, VANOC will not need a temporary use permit (TUP) to use the racquet club space for the Olympics, since VANOC's proposed uses follow the building's current zoning, according to the municipality's Bill Brown.



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