NDP mulls over selling BC Place

Leader Adrian Dix promises an expert panel will examine sales option

AN NDP government would appoint an expert panel to examine the option of selling BC Place stadium to a private operator.

“Skills training, health care, education and managing our land base are all fundamental priorities for the government,” NDP leader Dix said in Vancouver Wednesday. “Retractable roofs and stadium management, in my view, are not.”

B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark, campaigning in Sicamous Wednesday, dismissed Dix’s announcement as “a stunt,” presented without evidence that there is any possible buyer. Clark said the proposal is designed to deflect attention from the NDP’s plans to increase government spending.

The stadium and Vancouver convention centre are operated by PavCo, a Crown corporation that supervised a $531 million renovation and retractable roof for the stadium.

The project was initially budgeted at $365 million, characterized by the NDP as a cost overrun. B.C. Liberals have insisted the extra costs were added for a refit of the stadium as well as the new roof.

The budget for the grass-roofed convention centre budget rose from the original $495 million to a total cost of $883 million, in a rush to get it finished in time to serve as international media centre for the 2010 Olympics. Problems with piledriving and other aspects of the waterfront complex ran up costs and construction time.

PavCo’s latest financial statements report a debt of $1.25 billion, and forecast BC Place operating losses of $87.3 million for the five years ending in spring 2016. In the same period, the convention centre expects an operating loss of $11.6 million.

Dix said if the NDP forms a government after the May 14 election, independent experts will be given 90 days to review the operation of both facilities.

B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins has pledged to end subsidies to PavCo operations and sell the naming rights to BC Place. A proposed 20-year deal to sell the naming rights to Telus fell through early last year.

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