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After the Games: judging the facilities today Add to ...

Richmond Olympic Oval: Long track speed skating

Olympic cost: $178-million

Future: The crown jewel of Olympic venues, winner of an armful of design and architectural awards, is already in heavy use as a state-of-the-art, one-stop sport and fitness centre. On a recent Wednesday night, there was action on both Olympic-sized ice rinks, three courts for basketball and three for volleyball had games going on, space was cordoned off for practising cheerleaders and gymnasts, and there was still room for table tennis and badminton matches. On the floor above, dozens of fitness machines were in action.

Memberships, at $58 a month for adults, have already exceeded the target for all of 2010.

Although the Olympic speed skating track is gone, the Oval continues to host elite athletes. Last month’s world wheelchair rugby championships drew large, boisterous crowds. China and Canada have faced each other in several exhibition women’s basketball tilts, top-flight table tennis and badminton tournaments have been held, the national tae-kwon do championships are coming up, and on and on.

Having so much simultaneous activity under one beautiful, gigantic, swooping roof is proving to be an effective stimulator of community togetherness and physical well-being.

Podium placement: Gold. It doesn’t get any better than this.

****

Whistler Sliding Centre: Bobsleigh, skeleton and luge

Olympic cost: $104.9-million

Future: The fastest sliding track in the world, forever clouded by the pre-Olympic death of luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, is still part of this year’s World Cup circuit, but not for luge. World Cup races for bobsleigh and skeleton competitors are scheduled for the controversial sliding centre, Nov. 25-27.

Whistler 2010 Sports Legacies, which manages the alpine resort’s Olympic venues, hopes the track will claim a permanent World Cup berth, but there are no guarantees, and headquarters for Canada’s sliding athletes remain in Calgary.

However, the nearby Whistler Athletes Centre, another Olympic legacy to train and accommodate elite athletes, is already taking bookings from top sliders and their coaches, including Canadian lugers.

Meanwhile, nearly 8,000 visitors have paid for guided tours of the facility. Short runs down the track – for a price – will be offered to the public as early as December. “People love the association with the Olympics,” says Sports Legacies head, Keith Bennett. “It’s a big draw.”

Podium Placement: Silver. Tourists are likely to love the chance to try it out, and the track is a definite boon for aspiring B.C. sliders. But safety will always be an issue.

*****

BC Place: Opening and closing ceremonies

Olympic cost: $12.1-million for upgrading and service improvements

Future: Spurred by worries that the 27-year-old domed structure was becoming outmoded, the provincial government is spending close to half a billion dollars for a snazzy new top, described by BC Place as “the largest, cable-supported retractable roof on Earth.”

Once completed, the open-air-unless-its-raining stadium will serve as home field for both the B.C. Lions and Vancouver Whitecaps, entering the ranks of Major League Soccer for the first time.

Since it takes place up high, the dramatic construction project is visible from much of downtown Vancouver. So far, 15 of the roof’s eventual 36 masts are in place, with the rest to be erected by the end of the year. The roof itself will be installed during the ensuing winter months and spring.

But don’t expect the stadium to be finished by the time the Lions and Whitecaps open their 2011 seasons. Empire Field lives, for the moment.

BC Place officials will only promise “substantial completion” by next fall, and a structure “fully complete” in time for the Grey Cup in late November.

Podium placement: Silver. The new stadium should be great, but it’s a lot of money.

*****

Vancouver Olympic Village: Athletes village

Olympic cost: $1-billion for construction loan and land to private developer, to be paid back to the city; $110-million for social housing that the city plans to retain; $35-million for the community centre

Future: The Vancouver athlete’s village for the 2010 Olympics was planned as a city showcase of West Coast design, leading-edge green building, and attractive city plazas and walkways. But the village, with 1,100 units in 16 buildings, is currently a mini-ghost town in the heart of the city.

About 260 condos have been sold out of 737, and 70 of 119 apartments have been rented; promised stores and a brewpub haven’t opened. As a result, the $35-million community centre is the emptiest city facility around.

The city’s 252 units of rental housing, about 60 per cent of them subsidized, are empty because the city hasn’t been able to find an operator yet. It is now trying to figure out what to do next to get one. Vancouver taxpayers, who find themselves all in the role of landlord and speculative builder, still wait for the final bill.

Podium placement: Bronze. A beautiful place, but financial woes weigh it down.

***

Whistler Olympic Village: Athletes village

Olympic cost: $100-million for housing built by the municipality of Whistler; $30-million from the province; $10-million from VANOC for additional modular housing

Future: Whistler aimed to simplify things for itself by building a smaller village than in Vancouver, limiting the number of units it needed to sell on the private market once the Olympics were over.

Of 351 units that the municipality financed, 221 went into Whistler’s pool of affordable housing. Those townhouses and condos, which residents can buy for below-market prices, are 90-per-cent sold. Another 55-unit apartment is being rented out by the Whistler housing authority. Whistler also built a youth hostel with 55 units and 118 beds, now owned by Canadian Hostelling International.

But Whistler is having trouble selling its market properties, the 20 open-market townhouses and 25 private lots it developed on the land it was given by the province for the village. So far, only one townhouse and two lots have sold. Whistler will likely have to carry $25-million to $30-million in debt, possibly past the loan’s November, 2011 due date.

Podium placement: Gold. Cautious planning left Whistler with less of a fiscal headache and a big pool of affordable housing.

****

Whistler Olympic Park. Cross-country skiing, biathlon, ski jumping

Olympic cost: $119.7-million

Future: The challenging but rewarding trails of the scenic Callaghan Valley are a beacon for recreational cross-country skiers. Season passes are now on sale. Re-groomed to eliminate some of the steep vertical terrain from the Olympic course, trails are scheduled to open Nov. 13.

The biathlon shooting range was a summer hit. For five dollars, a visitor got a clip of five bullets and a chance to fire away at Olympic targets. Proceeds went towards Canada’s biathlon team, which has had its funding cut.

The big question mark involves the site’s two Olympic ski jumps, sprouting grass and empty of a winter agenda. They are costly to operate, and the country’s ski jumpers train in Calgary.

Legacy officials are pinning their hopes on the women. The International Olympic Committee is expected to decide later this month to finally include women ski jumping as an Olympic event in time for the 2014 Winter Games. And there is now a women’s World Cup ski jumping circuit, which could land at Whistler at least once in the next year or two.

Podium placement: Silver. Wonderful cross-country trails, but ill-used ski jumps.

****

Hillcrest Park: Curling.

Olympic cost: $87.85-million ($40.25-million from VANOC)

Future: Two separate facilities comprise this comprehensive Olympic site. Both are dramatic additions to the community.

The new, modern aquatic centre has been hugely popular since it opened this summer. The facility has an outdoor pool, a covered, 50-metre, Olympic-sized pool, steam rooms, hot tubs and sauna, and a fitness centre. “It’s been crazy,” says Danica Djukovic of the Vancouver Park Board. “We’ve had way more people than we projected.”

The nearby building where Olympic and Paralympic curling took place is still being converted to its post-Olympic use. When completed next May, the structure will boast a community centre, a library, preschool, ice rink and curling club, complete with four sheets of ice.

Constructing the two facilities close by, at the same time, will yield considerable savings in consolidated energy and heating systems.

Once the new centre is finished, the old Vancouver Curling Club and Riley Park community centre will be demolished to provide more open space for outdoor athletic fields.

Podium performance: Gold. Not too often you get high-class community facilities like these with a $40-million price tag reduction, thanks to the Olympics.

Follow us on Twitter: @fabulavancouver, @rodmickleburgh

 

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