Thursday, March 30, 2006

CTF Warns of Olympic Nightmares

Off the front page of the Province newspaper:

Richmond signed tough deal for oval
No sponsorships or rent and city must cover litany of contingencies

Kent Spencer, With a file from David Carrigg
The Province
Thursday, March 30, 2006

The site of the speed-skating oval, the largest building for the 2010 Olympics, on River Road in Richmond yesterday.
No taxes. No rent.
And if Richmond's $178-million Olympic oval burns down, the Vancouver Olympic Committee will require Richmond to rebuild it in time for the 2010 Games.

Those are some of the details of a deal between the Olympic committee and Richmond to build the speed-skating venue, the largest structure being erected for the Olympics.
The contract was signed on Oct. 24 last year, just days before the municipal election. It was obtained by The Province through a Freedom of Information request.

Critics say the Olympic committee's negotiators squeezed Richmond even when it came to a simple thank-you. VANOC's appreciation of the city's $118-million contribution will be reflected with a permanent sign at the oval. But like just about everything else in the contract, the city will foot the bill.

Sara MacIntyre of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation called the contract "a nightmare for Richmond taxpayers." "Politicians get the Olympic blinders on and they want to catch the wave at any cost," she said. "No wonder Richmond beat out Burnaby . . . in their momentary haste to win the race, Richmond said they'd cover anything.

"The oval is going to be B.C.'s version of the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. The Big Owe," she said.

Richmond council decided secretly two years ago to pursue a bid for the oval in competition with Burnaby, which said it could build the coveted venue for $85 million at Simon Fraser University.
At the time, Olympic committee CEO John Furlong said the SFU proposal would cost VANOC
$78.6 million, compared with $60 million for Richmond's plan.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, who believed the oval was stolen from under his nose, said the decision was short-sighted because low-lying Richmond was susceptible to floods and the oval would be difficult to keep cool.

Richmond spokesman Ted Townsend maintains that the city scored a "tremendous victory" with the 34,000-square-metre facility.

"We accepted a degree of risk, but we felt it was worth it for the amount of senior government funding," Townsend said yesterday on behalf of Mayor Malcolm Brodie, who was not available.
"We're getting a fabulous facility."

Richmond Coun. Rob Howard said: "Everybody's nervous when it comes to a project this size, but we're wringing every penny out of every dollar. I have a high level of confidence that this is a great deal for the city . . . a fire would be covered by the city's insurance."

Annie McKitrick, former chairwoman of the Richmond School Board and an unsuccessful candidate in last year's council elections, said: "The Olympic committee is not doing favours for Richmond, but Richmond is doing as much as possible for the Olympic committee. Taxpayers were not consulted. I don't think they mattered.

"Nobody understood what the city agreed to. If they had, it would have been different."

Several Olympics-related costs are not shown in the venue agreement. The city will pay about $2 million to reroute River Road and is currently compiling a report on the amount of staff time that has been used on the project. City staff, volunteers and politicians have taken 17 Games-related trips that cost a total of $575,000.

Terry Wright, VANOC senior vice-president of operations, said the facility brings enormous benefits to Richmond.

Those benefits include the facility being an anchor for a part of Richmond that needed development, providing several needed indoor facilities under one roof and providing a possible base for the University of B.C. Sports Medicine department.

"It does a lot for the status of Richmond. Look at the net result for the people of Richmond," said Wright, adding many of those benefits have been largely ignored by critics.

1 comment:

David MacLean said...

This is a bloody disaster. $118 million for an owe-val? Think of the hockey rinks, swimming pools and soccer fields you could create with that kind of dough. Let's be honest -- speed skating is a marginal sport at best. And Calgary has a great oval and what kind of economic spin-off does that bring? You now hear the sound of crickets.

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