Secret report shows bus barns will drive Olympic costs higher if bid succeeds

Senior officials informed city council last week that the Olympics cost estimate provided by Calgary 2026 isn't the full bill.

Documents show projects like removing transit facility in Vic Park not part of Olympic pricetag

An artist rendering of what a refurbished Victoria Park might look like. (City of Calgary)

Senior officials informed city council last week that the Olympic Games cost estimate provided by Calgary 2026 isn't the full bill.

Documents obtained by CBC News show that there are additional costs that council will have to consider if it hosts the Games.

Some will be discretionary but council was made aware in a closed-door meeting that others are "costs that the City is compelled to spend as a result of agreeing to host the Games." 

For example, the Calgary 2026 draft hosting plan released last week envisions an athletes' village being constructed on the current site of the Victoria Park transit centre.

The bus barns would have to be relocated to a new site where a modern facility would be constructed. 

As well, any environmental contamination on the Victoria Park site would have be cleaned up.

Bus barn not included in Olympic cost estimate

The document given to council indicates those additional costs include things like: "the complete costs associated with the moving of the bus barns (portion not included in the Draft Hosting Plan), site remediation and preparation costs also not included in the Draft Hosting plan and financing costs associated with paying for the City share."

The Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), which will oversee the redevelopment of the site, said that the extent of any environmental contamination is not currently known. 

The delivery of the athletes' village is identified in the council report as a key risk to the capital cost projections of the Games.

"The schedule and cost estimates may be impacted by complexities incurred while preparing the site for development," it reads. 

After the Olympics, the athletes' village would be used for affordable, attainable and market housing.

Councillor has cost concerns

Coun. Druh Farrell would not comment on the document.

But she has been saying for months that Calgarians should be told the full cost implications of a successful Olympic bid.

She wants those details released publicly before the upcoming Nov. 13 plebiscite on whether the city should proceed with a bid for the 2026 Games.

"We need to show those total numbers, impacts on our credit rating, what those would look like in order for Calgarians to make an informed decision. I've been assured that that information will be available," said Farrell.

In its draft hosting plan, the Calgary 2026 bid corporation estimated the total cost of the Olympics and Paralympics would be $5.2 billion.

Of that figure, $3 billion in public money is needed.

The city is currently negotiating with the federal and provincial governments on a cost-sharing agreement. 

The city share of that $3 billion has been estimated at approximately 15 per cent. That could turn out to be about $450 million, but the final figure isn't known yet.

New transit barn could be pricey

Bus barns can be expensive.

The city is currently building a compressed natural gas bus storage facility in north Calgary. It will cost $174 million and open early next year.

The relocation of the Victoria Park bus barn has been in the works for several years.

CMLC is finalizing the Rivers District Master Plan which will set out a vision for the redevelopment of east Victoria Park. 

In addition to a new entertainment district, its plan will call for the removal of the bus barn so it can be replaced by residential high-rise buildings.

That document will be revealed later this year.

The International Olympic Committee is expected to reveal a short list of candidate cities for the 2026 Games in early October.

The IOC will name the host city of the 2026 winter Olympics in September of next year.