Major budget problem arises for 2010 Olympic venue

Plans for a Paralympic sledge hockey arena in Whistler appear to be in jeopardy because of rapidly rising construction costs.

Plans fora Paralympic sledge hockey arena in Whistlerappear to be in jeopardy because of rapidly rising construction costs.

The Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee had committed $20 million for the 2,750-seat arena, but the costs are believed to have more than doubled.

While he would not confirm the new price tag, Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed told CBC News on Monday that "construction costs are going through the roof."

Melamed said at this point, his community, whichwould be onthe hook for the extra costs,can't affordto absorb them.

"One of the promises we made to the community as council was to manage the Olympics in a fiscally responsible way, and we just looked at this and said this might be too much," said the mayor.

He said the resort community had expected to hear back from VANOC and the province a month ago about the possibility of extra funding, but has heard nothing.

As a result, he said the sledge hockey tournament may have to be moved to another rink in Vancouver.

'Compact games' at risk

In past Paralympic Games, events have been spread out in venues that were hours from each other.

Whistler and VANOC had made a promise to change that by keeping the 2010 event within a compact area, with all facilities within 20 minutes of each other.

However, if the sledge hockey moves from Whistler to Vancouver, that would have a major impact, said Brian Macpherson of the Canadian Paralympic Committee.

"We thought this would be a great opportunity to have these unprecedented compact games for the benefit and the spirit of all the athletes from around the world."