Games venues already spinning millions of dollars into local economies

The following is an excerpt from an article originally published at VancouverSun.com:

They collectively cost more than $370 million to build, need millions of dollars a year to operate and won’t hit their stride as community attractions until after the 2010 Olympics.

But venue officials say the Whistler Sliding Centre, Richmond Olympic Oval and Vancouver Olympic/Paralympic Centre have already injected millions into their local economies.

Sliding centre general manager Craig Lehto said at least $1.3 million was pumped into the economy when international teams trained at the centre over 22 days in October and November.

The $61,000-a-day estimate includes money spent on food and lodging and does not include car rentals and other discretionary spending.

Lehto said the economic impact would have been significantly higher than $1.3 million in January and February this year when similar numbers of athletes came to the centre for test events because hotel rates are higher at that time of year.

The centre has also hosted corporate hospitality events at the starthouse, which offers a unique view of Whistler. Lehto feels the facility can become a year-round tourist attraction after the Games, possibly by letting people get onto the track — under supervision — with wheeled sleds.

“I think it can become an attraction like Canada Olympic Park [in Calgary] and Utah Olympic Park [near Park City] where there is a strong tourism component interested in seeing what happened during the Games,” he said. “We’ve already seen that here.”

The sliding centre will cost about $2.8 million a year to operate after the Games, which will come from revenues generated by the facility and from an endowment fund created to help operate the centre, Whistler Olympic Park and the Richmond Oval.

The fund stood at $102.3 million on Dec. 31 last year, after $6.4 million was disbursed during 2008.

The sliding centre, which hosts the World Luge Championships in 2013, hopes to become a regular stop on the World Cup sliding sports tour.

“Lots of events have taken place here already and we’re hopeful that momentum will be sustained [after the Games],” Lehto said.

Richmond Olympic Oval officials can’t provide economic impact estimates but note that more than 300,000 people have visited the facility since it opened last December.

City of Richmond spokesman Ted Townsend said the city-managed facility is negotiating partnership agreements with several national sports federations who plan to use the Oval as a training and competition centre.

The oval has already hosted several speed skating events — including the World Single Distances Championships in March — along with racket sports tournaments, wheelchair rugby, the BC Seniors Games and wheelchair basketball.

The Vancouver Olympic/Paralympic Centre, which becomes a community centre with a pool, ice rink and library after the Games, expects to attract more than one million people a year by 2011.

Click here to read the entire article.

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