Veteran BC NDP politician Mike Farnworth, the Opposition House Leader and Member of the Legislative Assembly for Port Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, clarified his party’s election platform position on the future of BC Place today on TEAM 1040.
First elected to office in 1991 after three terms as a Port Coquitlam city councilor, Farnworth threw his support – and that of his party – behind the $365 million renovations at BC Place, current home of the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League and future home of Vancouver’s Major League Soccer franchise in 2011.
Farnworth told TEAM 1040 sport business commentator Tom Mayenknecht that the BC NDP “supports” the current $365 M BC Liberal government plan going into the May 12th provincial election. Asked to clarify the party’s position on the BC Place renovation plan first announced by the BC Liberal government last May, Farnworth told Mayenknecht: “It’s going ahead. It’s in our capital plan and we want to make sure it’s in place for the inaugural (MLS) season in 2011. We’re looking forward to it. We’re very excited about it.”
The comments this morning on The Sport Market on TEAM 1040 and team1040.ca helped dispel widespread confusion – and concern – expressed by those following a series of online caucus statements, web-based advertising and media comments made by provincial New Democrats over the past 45 days. Previous NDP statements – including a reference highly-critical of the $365 M BC Place renovation plan in its election platform released Thursday, April 9th – indicated the NDP was toying with the idea of scrapping plans for the retractable roof at BC Place and replacing it with a more modest fixed roof similar to the existing dome.
The current plan by BC Pavilion Corp -- which operates both BC Place and the Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre on behalf of the BC Government -- includes up to $200 M for a retractable roof to be completed after the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games and upwards of $150 M for interior and exterior renovations, including a $43 M seismic upgrade.
Work already begun on the interior upgrades is expected to be completed before Vancouver 2010, with BC Place serving as the venue for the official opening and closing ceremonies February 12th and February 28th. The BC Lions have already moved their business operations staff to the CFL club’s Surrey training headquarters to accommodate the interior renovations at BC Place.
BC NDP spokesperson Stephen Howard said in an email Friday afternoon that if elected, the party would work closely with Whitecaps FC owner Greg Kerfoot and President Bob Lenarduzzi to ensure that the team is able to use BC Place for its inaugural MLS season in 2011: “An NDP government will prudently take a close look at the plan. If there are possible ways to save money on the project, then we will work with the Whitecaps to try and implement any possible savings.”
Farnworth went further, telling Mayenknecht: ““We are certainly not going to do anything that in any way will jeopardize MLS coming to Vancouver in any way, shape or form. We’re going to ensure that everything is fine for the inaugural season in 2011. It’s in our capital plan and we’re committed to that.”
He also said the NDP platform allocates $100 million to build soccer fields and other important recreational facilities in communities across B.C.
Mayenknecht brought the issue to light Thursday on Pratt & Taylor on TEAM 1040 and again on The Rick Ball Show Friday on TEAM 1040, referring to information posted at www.bcndp.ca and a VancouverSun.com blog posted March 31st by respected provincial political columnist Vaughn Palmer.
The BC NDP posted an item February 26th, 2009, on its Newsroom at bcndp.ca, criticizing the BC Liberal government and Premier Gordon Campbell for going with “a fully-loaded, retractable roof, rather than a more affordable design.” The item went on to say: “At times like these, why choose a Lamborghini when a Honda will do just fine?”
Moreover, BC New Democrat Adrian Dix went on the record with The Vancouver Sun’s Palmer that the NDP would be “explicit” about the party’s plan in the upcoming provincial election campaign.
“I think if you asked people in Vancouver what their priorities are, a retractable roof wouldn’t be high on the priority list,” Dix told Palmer on Voice of BC on Shaw Cable on March 26th. “I think it just shows what his (Campbell’s) priorities are and we’re going to have very different priorities in the election.”
But on Friday, April 10th, the BC Newsroom at www.bcndp.ca posted an item which appeared to reverse the concerns expressed in the BC NDP’s February 26th posting and by Dix, announcing: “Our election platform does including funding to cover the estimated $365 million cost of a retractable roof based on the limited details that the Campbell government has released about the project.”
In the past, the BC NDP has criticized the Campbell government for not responding sooner with a long-term plan for BC Place after an incident in January of 2007 where the roof ripped and deflated. They have suggested that moving earlier could have avoided “sky-rocketing project costs” and seen all of the renovations – including the new roof – completed before Vancouver 2010.
“I think most would agree that having the full meal deal in place for Vancouver 2010 would have been ideal and nobody’s thrilled with the cost overruns at the new Convention Centre but I would suggest that with construction costs actually coming down in the past six months, the argument about escalating costs threatening the BC Place project is misplaced,” said Mayenknecht, a Vancouver-based marketing communications specialist with Emblematica Brand Builders and a 25-year veteran sports executive in the National Basketball Association, professional tennis, soccer, lacrosse and Olympic sport.
“I believe it was a mistake by the BC NDP and senior New Democrats to make the series of online and media statements they made in February and March, putting the whole BC Place roof project in question,” said Mayenknecht. “But I believe it was a good move to come forward today to clarify their position because it is an issue that concerns tens of thousands of sports fans, especially those close to soccer and football.”
Vancouver’s recently-awarded Major League Soccer franchise is slated to begin play in 2011 under the new retractable roof at BC Place and the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League are also well into marketing the renovation as part of their season ticket sales campaigns. The MLS franchise was awarded on the basis of the retractable roof plan, which includes the capacity to create a fan-friendly lower bowl seating configuration of 20,000 at BC Place.
The BC Place plan is modeled after similar retractable roof upgrades showcased during the 2006 FIFA World Cup of soccer in Germany, most notably Commerzbank Stadion in Frankfurt. According to BC PavCo, the overall plan of $365 M will be offset by the development of lands immediately adjacent to BC Place, energy savings, corporate sponsorships and expanded event business. PavCo has already dedicated $25 million in existing surplus to the renovation budget.
Mayenknecht has lauded retractable roof plan for driving significant new revenue streams for PavCo in general and BC Place in particular. The BC Lions and new MLS soccer franchise are expected to generate spin-off economic benefits of upwards of $60 M per year between home dates for the two franchises. Special events such as the Grey Cup, awarded to Vancouver and BC Place for 2011, are expected to generate more than $75 M alone.
“The difference in price between a $200 M retractable roof and a new $50 M fixed dome would not only be offset by that amount of economic impact by 2013, I could see PavCo covering the full capital costs in their budget within seven years. It’s impossible to compare the event hosting capacity of BC Place with a fixed dome and BC Place with a retractable roof. That expanded business is the first punch of economic benefits behind a retractable roof. The second is the resultant new sponsorship opportunities, including plans for corporate naming deals for the concourses and the stadium itself.”
-courtesy TEAM 1040