The entire stadium renovation will possibly cost $250-MILLION.
Oops, Liberals discover BC Place needs pricey Olympic refit after all
Vaughn Palmer, Vancouver Sun
Published: Saturday, March 08, 2008
It was May 2006, a committee room in the legislature buildings, and the Opposition was raising prophetic concerns about BC Place.
Was the aging stadium ready for Olympic opening and closing ceremonies? Would taxpayers have to foot the bill for a major refit?
Not to worry, the B.C. Liberals insisted. Though completed back in 1983, the stadium was good for another two decades.
"It is not anticipated that BC Place will need a significant capital infusion," minister-for-the-Olympics Colin Hansen said.
The government had budgeted a mere $2.5 million for the touch-up. The full amount to be covered out of the existing budget for the 2010 Winter Games.
The New Democrats weren't persuaded. Guy Gentner, MLA for Delta North, had been perusing the BC Place service plan and offered his reading of the state of the stadium.
"BC Place stadium is close to its end," he declared, "The roof is ready to fall down."
Yep. That's exactly what Gentner said. May 1, 2006.
The Liberals scoffed. The roof ready to fall down? Where did Opposition members get these notions?
"The member is talking about guaranteed life," replied Olga Ilich, then the cabinet minister for BC Place. "The guaranteed life was 25 years, but that doesn't mean it is going to fall apart in the 25th year."
With proper maintenance, she insisted, "the roof is expected to last another 15 or 20 years."
Gentner again: "So we have assurances from the minister that the roof at BC Place is safe up to and beyond the Olympics?"
Right, Ilich replied. "It should last up to the Olympics and beyond."
Eight months later -- Jan. 5, 2007 -- the roof did fall down. "Human error," they said at the time. But the roof-collapsing tear in the fabric dome exposed BC Place to more than the elements.
A year after a hasty repair job, the roof that was going to last up to 20 years is now said to be in need of replacement in relatively short order.
"There's a maximum of about four years before we have to replace it," government-appointed overseer David Podmore told my colleague Jeff Lee this week.
Moreover, Podmore added, given the age of the roof, "it shouldn't be a surprise to anybody that it needs to be replaced."
Not to Gentner, anyway. But the Liberals ought to be a little red-faced.
Then again, that's not likely when you recall their lack of shame on the convention centre overrun, which is another project Podmore was brought in to rescue.
The no-more-than-four-years estimate on the remaining life-span of the roof poses a dilemma, because the Winter Olympics are scheduled to fall in the middle of that time frame.
"What we are endeavouring to do is to replace it before the Games," Podmore said. But with less than two years to opening day, that would be cutting it fine.
Recall, too, that the overrun on the convention centre expansion was the result of a rush job.
As to the potential cost of this boondog . . . er, project, my colleague Lee has extracted some preliminary estimates.
Figure at least $100 million for a replacement fabric roof, $150 million for one of those nifty retractable jobs.
Not including other costs, like the need to beef up the supporting structure of the stadium if the roof technology changes.
Throw in a state-of-the-art upgrade of the BC Place interior and you've got a tab maybe 100 times larger than the $2.5 million the Liberals were touting two years ago. ($250-MILLION STADIUM RENOVATION)
Needless to say, the government has rethought who should pay. No longer is it to be Vanoc's responsibility, which was (quoting Ilich) "our expectation" back in 2006.
Now the Liberals say the stadium improvements have nothing to do with getting ready the Olympics. (Where do people get these ideas?)
And at this point it would be unfair to stick Vanoc, which has done a better job of getting its costs under control, with the tab for another miscalculation by the provincial government.
The New Democrats baited the Liberals about the looming costs to taxpayers one day this week. But the latest minister in charge of the stadium, Stan Hagen, insisted "this is good news for British Columbia."
No need to mention he's the guy in charge of making feeble excuses for the $400-million overrun on the convention centre job.
Taxpayers need not be concerned about having to cover the cost of refitting BC Place, Hagen insisted.
The project will be financed through the sale and development of public land around the stadium.
Liberal cost accounting: If you sell the silverware to pay for a new roof, that's not a drain on your household finances.
Besides, Hagen assured the legislature, the government will negotiate a "fixed-price contract" for the BC Place renovations.
"Put us down as being a little skeptical," returned NDP House leader Mike Farnworth.