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Paralympic arena still possible: Sutherland

Frustration brews over Whistler's indecision Sylvie Paillard [email protected] It seems Squamish hasn't lost its chance to host the Paralympic sledge hockey arena after all.

Frustration brews over Whistler's indecision

Sylvie Paillard

[email protected]

It seems Squamish hasn't lost its chance to host the Paralympic sledge hockey arena after all.

According to the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC), Whistler has until the fall to decide whether it can afford the arena. If the resort says no, Squamish will lobby hard to get the facility, said Mayor Ian Sutherland.

"I've mentioned to [VANOC CEO] John Furlong and [Whistler Mayor] Ken Melamed that the day Whistler says no is the day I'm in John's office with a proposal form," said Sutherland. "We've been approached by more than one company that has said they'd be our partner in the building and the operation of the facility. They made it known to everyone that they still believe a project in Squamish is more than viable."

Sutherland once again offered up the town as a location for the arena following Melamed's statements in a Sun article on Monday (Aug. 14) that the arena's construction and operating costs may be "more than we can comfortably afford".

A Thursday (Aug. 17) Whistler Question article stated that Melamed said Whistler is waiting on a decision from the province, whereas provincial Minister of Economic Development Colin Hansen said the decision is in the resort's hands.

"In terms of the sledge hockey, that's a decision that the municipality has to make," said Hansen.

Sutherland said he's frustrated with Whistler's waffling.

"I mentioned that to Mayor Melamed before, if they don't hurry up and make a decision, then VANOC isn't going to be able to even listen to what we have to say because it'll be too late," said Sutherland "I don't think they're doing anybody any favours by dragging this out this long."

He added that the delays may cause the corridor to lose the sledge hockey event.

"It's getting to the point now where nobody's going to have any choice but put this down in Vancouver in an existing arena," he said.

"I think that would be terrible. I think having it in the corridor is great."

Sutherland said he's frustrated only with Whistler and is not frustrated with VANOC despite the organization abandoning its offer in Sept. 2005 of $20 million to build the arena in Squamish when Whistler council unanimously accepted VANOC's offer following public pressure. Sutherland said at the time that the district spent $50,000 to get a proposal together.

"We jumped through every hoop VANOC gave us, did everything they asked, and yet at the end of the day Whistler somehow got two extensions," said Sutherland in a Province newspaper article dated Oct. 19, 2005. "The playing field is slanted. The province has said these will be Games for of BC but we don't see any evidence of that."

Sutherland said in the Council Corner of this week's Chief that he is now "confident there will be many opportunities and announcements that will allow the people of Squamish to take part in this experience."

VANOC spokesperson Mary Fraser reiterated a VANOC issued statement that "it would be inappropriate to engage in further public discussions or to speculate on the alternatives under consideration."

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