Whistler rejects Paralympic venue

Whistler council has voted to kill plans for a Paralympic sledge hockey arena for the 2010 Winter Olympics, after costs tripled to about $60 million.

Whistler council voted Monday night to kill plans for a Paralympic sledge hockey arena for the 2010 Winter Olympics, after coststripled to about $60 million.

The Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC) had originally committed $20 million for the 2,750-seat arena, with Whistler payingany additional costs.

The facility would have been used for sledge hockey and wheelchair curling. Canada brought home gold medals in those sports fromTorino last winter.

The arenawould have become a community recreation centre for the resort community after the Olympics, but Mayor Ken Melamed said the costs had become too high.

"It was just a financial burden and a risk that we couldn't manage. At the end of the day, the costs were just too exorbitant," he told CBC News.

The sledge hockey will be moved to the B.C. Winter Sports Centre in Vancouver.

VANOC said wheelchair curling will also be be moved—tothe new Olympic curling venue at Nat Bailey Stadium Park in Vancouver.

Whistler will still host most of the Paralympic events in 2010.

But the mayor acknowledges that the decision ends the promise of a "compact games" forParalympians, with all the events happening within 20 minutes of each other. Whistler is about 120 kilometres north of Vancouver.

"A lot of us were moved when we went to Torino and witnessed the Paralympics, some of us for the first time ever, heard the passion that they had for compact Paralympics," said Melamed.

"And many people in the community really adopted that feeling and really started to think of the Paralympics as our own, and it's with great regret that we have to turn this down."

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