New roof by 2010
Crown corporation that runs BC Place studying options
Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun
Published: Wednesday, March 05, 2008
There will be a new roof on BC Place in time for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
But whether it will be the familiar air-supported roof that has graced Vancouver's skyline for 25 years, or a more modern open-centre roof has not yet been decided.
David Podmore, the chairman of PavCo, which owns BC Place, confirmed Wednesday the Crown corporation plans to replace the roof in the next 700 days, in time for the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.
He said the corporation is looking at a number of options: an identical inflated teflon dome, a rigid covering, a fixed fabric roof, a retractable fabric roof, or one with an open centre.
Podmore would not say how much the new roof would cost, but pledged it will be recovered through the development of condominium towers on property Pavco owns at the corners of the stadium.
That project [to redevelop surrounding stadium lands], which has not yet received city council approval, is still in the concept stage and would not start until after the Games, he said.
A report assessing the options for the roof is nearly complete and will be sent to the provincial cabinet within a month, he said.
If he had his choice, Podmore said, he'd swap the air-supported dome for a more efficient retractable open-centre roof that would free Pavco of crippling energy bills that exceed $1.4 million a year.
"I think it is pretty obvious that if we could get rid of the air-supported feature, that would be great. It does impose constraints on the building in terms of what you can do," he said.
"I think if we are able to get there, we would more than likely cover the seating and hopefully have an opening over the centre field."
Podmore said Pavco's choices will be limited to options that can be completed in time for the Games.
"Obviously, we wouldn't undertake it if we weren't confident it could be done."
He also said only proven technology will be chosen.
"There are different systems around the world. I will tell you that we are looking at proven technology," he said. "We don't really want to invent something."
Because BC Place was built to support an inflatable roof, changing the roof system would also require structural changes and upgrades, including "beefing up" support structures, he said.
"The technical answer is that this building is designed to work in compression, so that everything is working to pull that building in," Podmore explained.
"If you introduce a system that places a load on that compression ring, the tendency is that is pushing the building out."
An engineering assessment of the building is being done. Pavco has also hired Dominion Construction as a construction manager.
Pavco officials began exploring options for a new roof last summer, following the accidental deflation of the dome in January 2007 when an end panel blew out. The accident sharpened debate about whether the stadium should be torn down or retained.
Ultimately, the government decided the province needs a stadium the size of BC Place and that it made no economic sense to take it down.
"I think the accident, if it did anything, was to make a lot of people think about this building," Podmore said. "My own impression is that people sort of ignored the building and that it brought them to think about it and realize it's a pretty valuable building."
Pavco asked for tenders for replacing the current roof from the three companies in the world that build air-supported structures - Bird Air, Fabri-tec and Hi-Tec. But it also decided to look at whether a more modern form of roof could be built.
"We have those bids and we are currently evaluating them. We are also looking at other options," Podmore said. "We are trying to assess the full range of options for the building, what the cost of those might be and the timetable for construction."
Warren Buckley, the CEO of Pavco, said the corporation looked at a number of stadiums around the world, including the Pusan Dome in Korea, the new Durban soccer arena and the Commerce Bank stadium in Frankfurt, as well as Wimbledon, which is being covered with a retractable roof.
All of those use technology that didn't exist when BC Place was built in 1983.
"I think the reality is that there are other treatments and opportunities for us now that didn't exist before that are really quite exciting," he said.
By converting to a retractable roof, Pavco would eliminate a major drain on its finances. Podmore said the cost of keeping the roof inflated is roughly the same as the corporation's $1.4 million annual deficit, which is covered by provincial taxpayers.
Podmore said the decision to replace the roof isn't being driven by the Olympics, but rather by the fact the teflon dome is at the end of its functional lifespan.
"It served us really well and it shouldn't be a surprise to anybody that it needs to be replaced. It's no different than your own home," he said. "There is a maximum of about four years before we have to replace it. So what we are endeavouring to do is to replace it before the Games."
© Vancouver Sun