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B.C. Place to get retractable roof Add to ...

B.C. Place Stadium will be fitted with a retractable roof after the conclusion of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games after all, a source with knowledge of the situation told The Globe and Mail.

The provincial government started waffling on the proposed roof project this summer, just before announcing that it would run four consecutive deficits and declaring the financial cupboard "bare." Kevin Krueger, B.C.'s Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts told a commuter newspaper last month that tax dollars would not be used to cover the rising costs of the project, and that the province was looking for private-sector partners to help finance the estimated $300-million project.

The Globe and Mail has learned that both B.C. Lions owner David Braley and Vancouver Canucks chairman Francesco Aquilini have expressed interest in partnering with the province.

In theory, either man could help finance the project in exchange for the right to develop provincially owned land - some of the last available real estate in downtown Vancouver - around the stadium. It is also possible that a private investor could demand control over operations of the facility, which is currently held by PavCo, a Crown corporation.

The Canadian Football League's Lions, the primary tenant at the domed facility, and the Vancouver Whitecaps Football Club, which is scheduled to move into the building for its inaugural Major League Soccer season in 2011, have been awaiting word from the province on the status of the roof project. The Treasury Board has been reviewing it for cost savings, and some 160 bidders have agreed to delay their bids until the government makes a decision.

In normal years, the Lions would have already distributed their season-ticket renewal packages, and the team is anxious to inform its fans, particularly its 23,000 season-ticket subscribers, of plans for the 2010 season.

The Whitecaps, meanwhile, could have their MLS franchise revoked should the government kill the plans, announced in May, 2008, for an open-air stadium. This summer, Mr. Krueger went so far as to suggest that the current, air-supported roof could be replaced - rather than installing a retractable roof - in order to save money.

But a source familiar with recent discussions about the provincially operated stadium said the teams have little to worry about, and that an announcement is expected later this month.

"They're hoping to get it resolved in the next 10 days," the source said. "I think it's a positive resolution [for the sports franchises]"

Mr. Braley met with provincial officials on Friday, in advance of a game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, but would not comment on the talks. The Burlington, Ont., businessman has been a staunch supporter of the project, even though it threatens to interrupt the team's 2010 schedule.

The Lions still do not know whether they will be forced to move to a temporary stadium near the PNE grounds next season to accommodate construction on the roof. The initial plan called for construction to begin after the Paralympics conclude in March, with the roof completed in time for March, 2011, and the Whitecaps' MLS debut.

The 26-year-old facility has just undergone $65-million in renovations - mostly upgraded luxury suites, bathrooms and concession areas - in order to play host to the opening ceremonies for the 2010 Olympics.

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