NDP leader Adrian Dix promised Wednesday to order a government review of BC Pavilion Corp. (PavCo), and said he may even privatize BC Place stadium if his party wins the May 14 election.
Speaking at a news conference in Creekside Park, with BC Place and the privately owned Rogers Arena in the background, Dix slammed the BC Liberals for cost overruns and misplaced priorities on the 2011-completed renovation.
A self-declared fan of the B.C. Lions and Vancouver Whitecaps, Dix said the private sector can do a better job of running the stadium than the government.
"Skills training, healthcare, education and managing our land -base are all fundamental priorities for government; retractable roofs and stadium management are not," Dix said.
In January 2009 the Liberals announced a $365 million renovation budget including a retractable roof. The government claimed in 2012 that it actually cost $514 million. In January 2013, Auditor General John Doyle announced a preliminary investigation.
Dix said an NDP government would form a blue-ribbon panel of community and private-sector leaders to report back within 90 days on ways to make money-losing PavCo viable.
Proceeds from the sale, he said, would be applied to the taxpayer debt on the renovation. He pledged to honour the current labour contract at the stadium, where NDP-friendly B.C. Government and Service Employees Union workers are represented.
He did not discount the possible privatization of the Vancouver Convention Centre, PavCo's other building which was expanded for $883 million to serve as the 2010 Winter Olympics broadcast centre. Its original budget was $495 million.
The latest service plan for PavCo projects a five-year operating loss of $87.3 million at the stadium. Convention centre operations are expected to lose $11.6 million in the same period. The deal for Paragon Gaming to move its Edgewater Casino to a proposed complex west of the stadium is in limbo. A $40 million, 20 year naming rights arrangement with Telus was cancelled by the Liberals in February 2012.
While the news conference occurred, two workers were observed scaling the stadium roof support cables, apparently dealing with the effects of continuing grease leaks. The cost of repairs and maintenance may be as high as $20 million. A 100-day BC Supreme Court trial is scheduled to begin October 21 between steel contractor Canam Group and cable supplier Freyssinet. Canam is claiming more than $39 million. PavCo is named as a defendant in Freyssinet's $6.5 million lawsuit.
Business in Vancouver revealed on April 15 that Telus was paid $15.2 million by taxpayers for the goods and services provided to the stadium, which otherwise would have been paid for by Telus under its sponsorship deal.