By Bruce Constantineau
VANCOUVER — Don't worry, Vancouver Whitecaps.
Recession or no recession, BC Place stadium should be Major League Soccer-ready by the start of the 2011 season, retractable roof and all.
That was the word Wednesday from PavCo chair David Podmore, who expects to know the final price tag of the roof project by mid-January, with provincial cabinet approval expected soon after.
An upgraded BC Place stadium is crucial to the Whitecaps' bid for an MLS franchise to begin play in 2011.
A $65 million improvement to the stadium's interior is due for completion by November 2009, while work on an estimated $200 million-plus retractable roof, if approved, would begin in April 2010 and finish by the spring of 2011.
Questions about the viability of the roof project have arisen as the project's business plan calls for more than $100 million to be recovered through the sale and lease of development sites near the stadium.
However, the economic slowdown has clearly affected development activity throughout Metro Vancouver, with work halted or delayed on several projects.
Podmore said he's not worried about the impact of a recession, noting PavCo can delay the sale or lease of the development sites until the market recovers.
"I'm not concerned because we're talking about a program that's going to refurbish this stadium for 40 years," Podmore said. "If we take the land to the market in 24 months instead of six months, it doesn't kill the business proposition.
"I'm very optimistic we'll have strong [government] support for this."
Development plans for two major land parcels near the stadium call for up to 1.4 million square feet of new residential and commercial space to be built, including a maximum of 700,000 square feet of residential space.
"We would have mixed retail and entertainment uses on the rest of the site," Podmore said. "We want to get uses in that enliven and bring activity to the stadium area."
The stadium's interior renovation project already approved by the province includes improved access for disabled people, 35 refurbished suites and seven new suites and renovated concessions, washrooms, dressing rooms and general public areas.
Podmore said PavCo will soon award a separate contract for seismic upgrading and other work to prepare the stadium to receive the new roof.
He said design work on the roof project should be finished by January, after which PavCo will put out a tender for all the roof components - including steel, cables, castings, fittings and mechanisms for opening and closing the roof.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun