Trout Lake rink cost triples

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An Olympic legacy project in East Vancouver is now three times more expensive than the projected cost that voters were informed of prior to a 2003 city plebiscite on the 2010 Games. Vancouver taxpayers are on the hook for those higher costs, because Olympic organizers capped their contribution in a then-secret deal signed by city staff and Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation officials two days before the 2002 municipal election.

According to a new report that went to Vancouver city council on October 16, the Trout Lake Ice Rink Replacement Project is now expected to cost $15.9 million. Before the city's 2003 Olympic plebiscite, voters were told that the project would cost approximately $5 million. The City's Web site, www.vancouver.ca /, stated at the time that costs would be shared equally between the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee and the city.

The park board's director of planning and operations, Piet Rutgers, and the city's director of financial planning and treasury, Ken Bayne, cowrote the new report. It didn't mention the original $5 million estimate, and instead noted that the budget had increased from the $10.5 million anticipated in the original capital plan to $15.9 million. The new figure is also $2.86 million higher than the park board's revised estimate of 13 months ago.

The Trout Lake Ice Rink Replacement Project is defined as an Olympic legacy project because the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee has contributed $2.5 million toward the capital cost of the facility. Olympic hockey players will use the rink for practices during the 2010 Games, and it will then become a city facility available for public use.

During the campaign leading up to the 2003 plebiscite, then–Vancouver mayor Larry Campbell and other politicians repeatedly assured voters that the provincial government would cover all Olympic cost overruns. Shortly before the plebiscite, the Straight reported that on November 14, 2002, the City had signed four separate agreements with the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation. According to Phil Le Good, then with the No Games 2010 Coalition, those agreements capped the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee's contributions to Olympic legacy projects in the city. He claimed that this left city taxpayers vulnerable to any construction-cost escalations.

"There is some deliberate stuff going on to hide the costs that are going to be borne by the residents of Vancouver," Le Good told the Straight in January 2003. "Where are they getting the money to pay for this?"

No mainstream media covered this story at the time, and then-mayor Campbell refused to speak to the Straight about Le Good's concerns. In the February 2003 plebiscite, 63 percent of city voters approved of Vancouver hosting the 2010 Olympics.

Council voted to cover the latest cost escalation on the Trout Lake project by reallocating $2.86 million from the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee's contribution for conversion of the Hillcrest Centre following the 2010 Games, which is another Olympic legacy project. City taxpayers will eventually be responsible for paying that expenditure, unless other sources of funding can be found.

"The funding for all construction-related projects is under pressure and staff are having to consider funding sources that have implications for the next capital plan," the report states.

It emphasized that city staff and the architectural team have "undertaken extensive value engineering to keep costs down" on the Trout Lake project. They have deferred any expectation of obtaining Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold certification, thus saving $250,000. The report neglected to mention that the decision to aim for a "silver standard" could mean that the building will be less energy-efficient, which might drive up operating costs for city taxpayers over the longer term.

Rutgers and Bayne wrote in their report that the "best available estimate to date" puts construction costs at $13.7 million. In addition, the revised budget includes $1.36 million for consultants' fees and $884,000 for permits, contingency costs, and miscellaneous expenses. "The construction market continues to be challenging, with some bids even exceeding the estimates of the most seasoned industry professionals," the report states.

It cited several site and design issues. They include the installation of new water, sewer, electrical, and gas systems big enough to service the new rink and a future community centre. "The iconic roof design and associated glazing, while creating the appropriate blending of the building with its park environment is associated with a cost premium over a flat roof," the report noted.

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Grumpy
So what else is new? As long as we got Bill Boring and the rest of the Olympic (TM) rah rah gang out there keep cheering on this white elephant no one will know the true cost until after the two week party. I just hope is snows and we can show the world how Vancouver copes with 1 inch of snow. 2 inches, the buses stop working; 3 inches SkyTrain grinds to a halt; and RAV, well its underground, but it doesn't service any venues!

Oh what fools we mortals be.
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Charlie Smith
I don't understand why the other media ignored Phil Le Good in 2003 when he raised concerns about the city's financial liability with respect to the Olympic legacy projects. It seems to me that this should have been important consideration for Vancouver residents who planned to vote in the plebiscite.
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