BY BRUCE CONSTANTINEAU
The B.C. government has approved the business case for a $365-million upgrade of BC Place, which will include a retractable roof estimated at about $200 million.
The $365 million cost includes $65 million in interior improvements already underway, a $43-million seismic upgrade, the roof project, plumbing, electrical and infrastructure improvements and a contingency fund.
PavCo chair David Podmore said most of the project will be financed through the development of lands near BC Place, existing cash reserves of about $25 million, expanded event business and sponsorships and energy savings.
The business plan calls for more than $100 million to be recovered through the sale and lease of development sites near the stadium. Podmore said the release of the development sites can be delayed until the market recovers from the recession.
The retractable roof project is crucial to the Vancouver Whitecaps' bid to win a Major League Soccer franchise to begin play in 2011. Six North American cities are vying for two franchises and the MLS is expected to decide on the winning bids early this year.
The MLS season begins play in March but Podmore said the retractable roof probably won't be finished until the summer of 2011. He said the Whitecaps could still play in BC Place while the new roof is being completed.
Vancouver Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi said the timing of the BC Place upgrade announcement couldn't be better, with the MLS in the final stages of evaluating six potential expansion markets.
MLS commissioner Don Garber and president Mark Abbott visited BC Place last month as part of the league's due diligence in examining the six bids. Other cities bidding for an MLS franchise include Portland, Ottawa, St. Louis, Miami and Atlanta.
"I think the league felt confident (the BC Place upgrade) was going to happen but now that it has been fully ratified, that gives them a greater level of comfort," Lenarduzzi said.
Podmore refused to be specific on the expected final price tag for the retractable roof project, widely estimated at around $200 million.
"If I give all of the budget breakdowns, then we're basically telling the contracting community exactly what we've allocated," he said. "I want to make sure we have the very best pricing come in on a competitive basis."
A final roof design is expected to be completed by the end of January, with the tendering process expected to begin by early-to-mid-February. PavCo has hired PCL Constructors to work on the next phase of the BC Place upgrade project, which Podmore feels makes sense from a monetary point of view.
"I'm very confident in the project and I think it's a very prudent investment for the city because otherwise, you'd be replacing this facility somewhere else at probably triple the cost," he said.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun