Speed skaters to find new home on the hill

Jul 10, 2003, vol. 27, no. 6
By Marianne Meadahl

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Somewhere in Rome, Vancouver's successful bid for the 2010 Olympic Games caused a small, raucous celebration.

That's where a vacationing Wilf Wedmann, SFU's director of recreation and athletics, got the news of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) long-anticipated July 2 decision to award the games to the city.

“Now it's real,” says an elated Wedmann, reacting to the news that is set to bring a world-class speed skating oval to SFU. “Our challenge from this point on is to ensure the facility is designed so that it becomes a truly wonderful legacy asset.”

The facility is the largest to be built for the games. Its estimated cost is $65-$70 million, a major portion of the bid corporation's $170 million venue construction and upgrade budget. Most of the funding will come from the federal and provincial governments' shared $620 million investment toward Olympic venues.

The flat, rectangular facility will be built into the hillside at the southwest end of campus below the residences. It will be large enough to hold two international size hockey rinks, a 400-metre speed skating oval and a 440-metre running track.

An operating endowment - a legacy trust - will be put in place to fund the majority of the facility's long-term operating costs and will be the shared responsibility of SFU and a management committee.

The facility is to be shared a third of the time each between SFU, elite athletes and the public, with the university carrying its third of the costs. It will offer the added bonus of serving as a field house, complete with an artificial field, a potential plus for varsity and club teams.

The nod sends SFU's Olympic planning committee into its next phase. Chaired by Bill Krane, associate VP-academic, its members, which include faculty, staff and former athletes like Olympic gold medallist Daniel Igali, will begin consultative processes with faculty, the community at large and various levels of government beginning this fall.

Faculty from a variety of disciplines, including those connected to SFU's new institute for health research and education and the newly proposed faculty of health studies, will be approached about the possibility of developing a sport institute to conduct research into sport-related and other physical activitities. Consultations will also be carried out with the B.C. and national sport communities focusing on the long-term role of the oval as a national high performance training centre.

Krane says, “This represents a tremendous opportunity for SFU to enhance its already significant reputation in sport at the national and international levels.”

Wedmann adds that support for a field house facility at SFU would have continued even if Vancouver had lost the bid.

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