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July 1 new target date for Adventure Centre opening


The Squamish Adventure Centre could be up and running by Canada Day - maybe - and it could be selling licensed Olympic merchandise in the future.

Those were some of the messages from the key players in the construction and operation of the Adventure Centre to local businesspeople at the Squamish Chamber of Commerce's monthly general meeting Tuesday (May 17) at the Howe Sound Inn.

The project's construction supervisor, Philip Glen, said the signature building's roof is "extremely complex" and is the main item holding up completion. The last elements of the building's superstructure were due to be installed Tuesday and the building was connected to Hydro at the same time.

The centre, which will house visitor information services, booking facilities for adventure tour operators, restrooms, a café and retail services, was originally scheduled to be completed by March 31 of this year. Glen said the building could be ready for a July 1 opening "on an aggressive schedule.

"The next time you're in a hurry, try four corners," he said wryly, referring to the building's unique and complex architecture and tight building timeline, to laughter from the audience.

District of Squamish economic development officer Lee Malleau described the Adventure Centre as a "catcher's mitt" to attract more of the estimated 5 million people who drive through Squamish each year and to address "gaps" in Squamish's economy.

The centre is to be operated by the Squamish Development Corporation, an arms-length corporation owned by the District of Squamish, similar to the Squamish Oceanfront Development Corporation which will be marketing the Nexen Lands. Revenues from the building's retail operations and booking facilities are to make the centre eventually self-sustaining, Malleau said.

The District has hired a retail expert to help set up the Adventure Centre's retail component, which will feature the work of local artisans and promote local businesses, she added.

Malleau also revealed that the District is in discussions with the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), the official supplier of clothing to the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee, to have HBC use the Adventure Centre as a central hub for its Olympic merchandising efforts and is looking into possible licensing opportunities for Squamish.

The District is almost finished negotiations with the Chamber of Commerce on an agreement to provide visitor information and tour/activity booking services at the centre, according to Bob Kusch, director of parks and recreation for the District.

The café portion, which will be operated by Pause Café, a Cleveland Avenue coffee shop, is also required to promote other food outlets in Squamish as part of its agreement, he pointed out.

District deputy administrator Brent Leigh, who is in charge of the construction schedule and budget, said the construction effort has the "spirit of a barn raising.

"This is the first step of building a new Squamish."

The centre is designed for drop-in Whistler-bound visitors who have 10 to 20 minutes to spend to learn about Squamish and attract them here for future visits as well as a "destination exhibit" for people looking for information on Squamish or to book tours and activities, he added.

"The whole idea is to come in and see Squamish, try Squamish and do Squamish."

The centre will have signage on Hwy. 99 north and south of the site and the District is negotiating with the Ministry of Transportation for a right-turn access off Hwy. 99 northbound directly into the Adventure Centre.

When asked about the possibility of allowing Whistler tour operators to lease space in the centre, Kusch and Chamber managing director Tom Abbott said Tourism Whistler and Whistler Blackcomb are "very interested" and are in discussions with the Chamber.

"We are Whistler's first visitor information centre," said Leigh. "We should be enjoying some of the benefits from that."

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