Richmond gets skating oval
August 17, 2004
VANCOUVER (CP) -- The organizing committee for the 2010 Winter Olympics left Simon Fraser University officials bitterly disappointed Tuesday in deciding to move the proposed speed skating oval to Richmond from a proposed campus site.
"This will be the best venue of its kind in the world," said John Furlong, chief executive officer of Vancouver Organizing Committee. "We believe . . . it will be the signature venue for the Olympic Games."
The decision, however, left Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan and officials at Simon Fraser University, the location cited in the original Olympic bid, angry and disappointed.
"It's been an appalling process," said Corrigan. "I'm disgusted."
Corrigan said "the fix was in from the beginning. They had a set of developers out there and they were planning to see if they could get this to Richmond right from the very beginning."
But the organizing committee said as they began to review various venue plans that the SFU bid might pose cost and construction challenges.
They decided to seek proposals from interested parties and two formal proposals were submitted, including Richmond's and a revised proposal from SFU.
Furlong said building the oval at SFU, located atop Burnaby Mountain in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, would have cost $78.6 million while Richmond was able to stick to the budget of $60 million and assume responsibility for cost overruns.
"The original SFU plan was good based on the best information at the time," Furlong said at a crowded news conference.
The university bid would have met minimum requirements but Richmond's plan exceeds requirements.
The SFU bid was for a facility of almost 20,000 square metres; Richmond's is more than 33,000 square metres.
"It will be the premier sport venue for the future," said Furlong.
Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said he wasn't surprised to hear his city was the victorious bidder.
"We were always confident that we had made a very, very strong proposal, one which would benefit the city of Richmond and the Olympics at the same time.
Brodie said the process was fair and open to any community that wanted to make a proposal.
"We believe that there was real integrity in the process," he said.
He said tax dollars would not be used for possible cost overruns.
"We don't plan to use tax dollars. We have other sources in mind. So we're not going to run up any debt or any property taxes."
The oval will be built along the Fraser River near the airport and the proposed rapid transit line.
The Richmond site is also accessible faster from the site of the proposed Olympic village while the Burnaby site is more distant.
Project planning is scheduled to begin immediately with construction to start in the fall of 2005.
SFU president Michael Stevenson also held a news conference and said the university was "deeply disappointed."
The university, he said, had spent time and money and had a signed venue agreement with the organizing committee that was negotiated in good faith.
He said among the "misrepresentations" in the evaluations of the two bids was that SFU couldn't compete costwise.
The university met the terms and conditions of the building as agreed to but conceded later that Richmond's pledge to assume responsibility for cost overruns was a feature that a public institution like SFU could not match.
The SFU bid had been endorsed by six mayors of neighbouring municipalities including New Westminster, Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam.
Canadian Press 2004