B.C. Place renovations get go-ahead from City Hall - 24 Hours

City council votes 7-4 to amend False Creek plan
By BOB MACKIN

B.C. Place Stadium renovations and re-roofing got the go-ahead Thursday night when Vancouver city council voted 7-4 to amend the False Creek official development plan.

The decision, passed by the right-leaning NPA majority and left-leaning COPE, allows B.C. Pavilion Corporation, the taxpayer-owned stadium’s operator, to lease surrounding lands to office and residential building developers. The profits would be reinvested in the modernizing the 1983-built stadium. The strategy was disclosed by PavCo chairman David Podmore last January but its potential for success may be challenged by the global economic crisis.

Podmore envisions podiums three-to-five storeys high to support four buildings. Three would be mid-rises on the stadium’s west side. A high rise would be built on the southeast side.

PavCo began a year-long $65-million stadium renovation by Dominion-Fairmile construction earlier this fall to prepare for the 2010 Winter Olympics and a post-Games retrofit. VANOC is also spending $3.8 million. The stadium will host opening, closing and nightly medals ceremonies.

A second phase, the cost of which has not been disclosed, involves installing a new, German-engineered retractable fabric roof by 2011. That would replace the air-supported, Teflon-coated fibreglass roof that was originally inflated in November 1982. That roof ripped and collapsed under the weight of snow, ice and slush on Jan. 5, 2007. Four months later, property developer Podmore volunteered as chairman of the Crown corporation. Last December, he told B.C. Place employees that the stadium would be saved from the wrecking ball.

The stadium is home of the Canadian Football League’s B.C. Lions. Key to the renovation plan is for the United Soccer Leagues’ First Division champion Vancouver Whitecaps to win one of two Major League Soccer expansion franchises for 2011. The Whitecaps originally proposed building their own outdoor stadium on the central waterfront near Gastown, but land swap talks with the federal Port Metro Vancouver stalled earlier this year and the project is in doubt.