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October 23, 2009

Private sector involvement likely in replacement of BC Place Stadium roof

Government looking for creative financing to pay for project

The B.C. government is looking for creative financing to pay for a new roof on B.C. Place Stadium, after delays caused by a lack of funding for the project in the last budget.

“Since this project went out to tender, the world has changed and the government is in a deficit,” said Kevin Krueger, minister of tourism, culture and the arts.

“Agreement on the price was substantially done before the government released the last budget.”

In September, the provincial government released an updated 2009 budget that contains revised deficit forecasts of $2.8 billion in 2009-10, $1.7 billion in 2010-11, and $945 million in 2011-12.

“We have decided to bite the bullet of putting a retractable roof on the stadium instead of replacing the existing roof,” said Krueger. “We want funds from taxpayers, but we are also looking for private-sector participation. We have received some interesting proposals and all private-sector parties want a retractable roof.”

According to a story in the Globe and Mail earlier this month, private-sector involvement at B.C. Place may include B.C. Lions owner David Braley and Vancouver Canucks owner Francisco Aquilini.

Braley and Aquilini have both expressed interest in a partnership to finance the project, in exchange for the right to develop provincially owned land.

The False Creek North Official Development Plan has already been amended to allow for commercial and residential development on the property around B.C. Place.

The money generated from the development of this prime downtown property would be used for the stadium’s maintenance and refurbishment costs.

A private investor could also demand control over operations of the facility, which is currently held by the B.C. Pavilion Corporation (PavCo), a Crown corporation.

According to PavCo president and CEO Warren Buckley, financing is the main factor that has contributed to the delays in awarding the contract for phase two of the project.

The delay “is more about what other financing options are available,” he said.

“This is an opportunity to find a private-sector partner or spread out construction over a longer period.”

PavCo has finalized the roof design with Geiger, the head engineering firm. PCL, the main contractor on phase two, has put the project out to tender.

The project is so complex that it has been broken up into 40 different bids. Kruger said the leading bids have been chosen, but have been delayed.

Bidders have agreed to hold their bids longer than originally anticipated.

Phase two of the BC place renovation plan includes the installation of a state-of-the-art retractable roof. The technology for the roof can be found at Commerzbank Arena in Frankfurt, Germany, which is the home field of Eintracht Frankfurt of the German Bundesliga. A key feature of the roof design is the installation of a centrally hung electronic scoreboard.

Buckley said PavCo analyzed various bids, as well as the implications for capital cost and debt with the provincial Treasury Board.

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