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bc place stadium

Members of the media during a tour of construction at BC Place in Vancouver June 28, 2011.John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

A revamped BC Place Stadium will open "on time and on budget" at the end of September, but BC Pavilion Corp. has yet to find a way to pay for the retractable roof, Minister of Jobs Pat Bell says.

The $240-million roof was supposed to be funded by lease payments of $6-million a year from a casino expansion on PavCo-owned lands next to the stadium. However, Vancouver council rejected the proposed project by casino company Paragon in April.

PavCo has three years to retire the roof debt, and the Crown corporation is exploring options for the land, Mr. Bell said on Tuesday. Since the city has endorsed the transfer of the existing Edgewater Casino to the site next to BC Place, the possibility that lease payments from a new gambling venue could be used to pay for the stadium's roof has not been eliminated.

"We're looking at a variety of options, we've got a number of approaches by different organizations," he said. "Entertainment is a key theme that we want to see. That clearly has been a priority for the city and the province from day one. A casino may be a part of it - maybe a small one, maybe not one at all."

PavCo chairman David Podmore insisted on Tuesday that the stadium renovations are "much more than a roof project." The $563-million in renovations are being financed primarily by a loan and a grant from the province, and include refurbishing of mechanical, electronic and communications systems, seismic upgrades, installation of new lighting and sound systems, as well as new washrooms, change rooms and areas for handicapped seating. The "superior environment" will attract a wider variety of sponsors, advertisers and events that would generate enough revenue - an estimated $100-million a year - to repay the $150-million government loan, Mr. Podmore said.

"The revenue is projected to be substantially higher in the building because of its versatility and the nature of events we can attract, and the increase in number of events in the building," he said. "We're projecting we'll go from 210 event days to between 240 and 250 event days with this new configuration."

Mr. Podmore pointed out that the "eventual development of land surrounding BC Place" will be a source of revenue, but use of the nine acres has not been determined. Although Mr. Bell did not disclose specific details, he said he has been in discussion with Mayor Gregor Robertson, and some other suggestions include convention-type facilities, recreational facilities, hotels and permanent housing.

"That [$6-million a year]doesn't enter into the budget line of PavCo for three years," he said. "We have some time to work through that. My expectation is we will have those sites generating revenue within that time frame."

The B.C. New Democrats mocked claims that the BC Place renovations are on budget and will be ready for a Sept. 30 opening. The party said in a statement on Tuesday that the B.C. Liberals had originally projected the cost of the renovations at $365-million, not $563-million.

"As for the roof being 'on time,' British Columbians were told after the last election that the roof would be completed by the Olympics. They later said it would be July 1, 2010, and then it was moved to the end of September of this year," the statement said.