B.C. Place renovations to cost $365M - 24 Hours

By BOB MACKIN

B.C. Place renovations are now projected to cost about $365 million. (FILE PHOTO)
The price to renovate and re-roof B.C. Place Stadium will be more than a third of a billion dollars.

The British Columbia government, through public relations agency Pace Group, announced in a Friday morning news release that it approved a $365 million budget, including contingencies, for rejuvenating the stadium that was opened in 1983 for $126 million.

"This gives us another 30, 40, 50 years of life in this building," B.C. Pavilion Corporation chairman David Podmore said in an interview with 24 hours. "I think it's a very good investment and it's certainly a superior investment to the alternative: tearing it down and having probably triple the cost to replace it at another location."

B.C. Place will host the opening, closing and nightly medals ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Olympics, but capital upgrades were not contemplated when the International Olympic Committee chose Vancouver's bid in 2003. Critics have compared the relatively sudden rush to spend on pre- and post-Games renovations to the fiasco of Montreal's 1976 Olympic Stadium. The $1 billion debt was finally retired in 2006.

Premier Gordon Campbell announced the renewal plan in May 2008, but refused to offer any budget estimates. Just weeks earlier, the provincial cabinet decided to delay the re-roofing until after the Games.

The $365 million budget is close to the $350 million estimate published in a late November edition of SportsBusiness Journal. Podmore, when asked in December about the $350 million report, denied it was accurate and wouldn't comment further.

"I don't know where they got it," Podmore said to 24 hours at the time. "They didn't get it from us."

The B.C. Place project is supposed to be financed by leasing lands around the stadium to private developers, sale of stadium naming rights, in-stadium advertising and new events, such as Vancouver Whitecaps soccer. Podmore would not comment on the funding formula before the end of January, but he did rule out privatization.

The United Soccer Leagues' First Division champions intend to move to B.C. Place in 2011 on a five-year lease with options to renew. Whitecaps' owner Greg Kerfoot is awaiting a decision on the club's bid for a Major League Soccer franchise.

The first $65 million phase of B.C. Place renovations began last summer under contractor Dominion-Fairmile. PCL Constructors was quietly awarded the construction management contract in December for removal of the air-supported fabric dome and replacement with a German retractable system using Tenara, a material produced by jacket-maker Gore.

Concert Properties president Podmore was appointed volunteer chairman of Pavco in April 2007, four months after the stadium roof ripped and collapsed under the weight of heavy, wet snow on Jan. 5, 2007. An investigation confirmed 24 hours' reports that the snow melting system was not used during a snowstorm.

Podmore's other task with Pavco was to cap skyrocketing costs at the Vancouver Convention Centre expansion project. The $883.2 million, 2010 Games' international broadcasting centre is opening in April. It was originally planned for $495 million and a July 2008 opening.