BC Place Roof Inquiry Needed

Something, in my view, has always stunk when it comes to the modern day saga of BC Place ….. and maybe what could turn out the world’s most expensive roof!

Whether it’s been the discussions surrounding replacing or moving the entire facility or just replaicng its roof .. and most importantly, who should pay for any of it … I haven’t felt comfortable with any of the proposals or discussions.

Maybe that’s because, after 38 years of reporting … most of that involving politics, politicians, public money and the possibilities of preferential partisan predispositions … I have never liked what I have seen surrounding the roof/stadium  debate.

Now I understand the roof replacement cost would reportedly be a $450 million project… ie probably $600 million when completed.  Ridiculous on its own! 

But especially so at a time when six legal-aid offices in the province are being shut down for lack of funds, when schools are facing more and more cuts and layoffs, when times are so tough we can’t afford to raise the disgraceful $8/hour minimum wage and when someone I know diagnosed with kidney cancer has to wait until May for surgery … but there’s hundreds of millions of dollars for a stadium roof.  

And then there was that recently-revealed phone call last year to Culture and Arts Minister Kevin Krueger.

Richard Turner, identified by several media as a “Liberal insider”  and “Liberal financial backer and appointee” called Krueger on his cell phone (Do YOU have that number?  I sure don’t!)  to discuss Paragon’s plans to build a $450 million multi-hotel and casino project on the shore of False Creek, near the stadium.

Turns out Turner is a director of one of Paragon’s corporate entities and a shareholder in the Edgewater Casino also near the stadium. And he admits telling Krueger if the stadium roof project is NOT proceeded with “we’ll have to downsize what we said we would do in the bid package.”

Threat?  Just a statement of the facts?  Normal business pressure tactic?  Everyone will have their own interpretation … but what is clear is that it was AFTER that call that the government announced it WOULD go ahead with the roof replacement project.

In my view, there’s a smell wafting from it all … and it’s not the smell of success from the point of view of expenditure of public dollars.

And we’re not just talking a small amount of public $$$$… reportedly $365 million (I’d bet it would end up more) .

The press, the Opposition must NOT let up on this one.

To me, it smacks of an arrogance of power by politicians who believe they can just spend public $$$ as they wish … even foolishly on wildly expensive ill-advised projects … helping out friends and insiders … in the belief they can just get away with it, and get re-elected anyway.

They could even be right.

But I believe there’s enough happening here for a couple of legislative committees to turn their attention to. examine and expose what is going on.

And enough to keep the media busy too … on real news, involving a great deal of legitimate public interest.

Harv Oberfeld

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25 Responses to BC Place Roof Inquiry Needed

  1. SharingIsGood says:

    Glad to see you back, Harvey! I couldn’t agree with you more about any of your points concerning this replacement roof.

    Further: The Arizona Cardinals play in a brand new stadium that is larger than BC Place. The complete, retractable-roof, stadium cost the same amount as the new roof and upgrade to BC Place is projected to cost (sans cost over-runs).


    (Response: Good to be back. Let’s hope we can get all get some good discussions going on issues again. I know “they” are watching. 🙂 h.o.)

  2. RossK says:

    I very much agree Mr. Oberfeld.

    And, in addition to The Press not letting up this time, they must also start truly digging and connecting dots.

    Based on the evidence so far, the only proMedia person who has done this so far is Sean Holman.

    My take on this matter, for anyone interested, can be found at PacificGazette.Blogspot.Com



  3. Gary E says:

    Good take on this Harv. Welcome back. Ross K the Gazetteer has been doing a great series on this. I can’t help wondering why the MSM isn’t digging deeper.

    (Response: I suspect a few ARE digging ..looking for more. The Opposition too. At least, I sure hope so. I just don’t feel we yet know the whole story behind all the decisions made or about to be made. h.o.)

  4. Steve says:

    Welcome Back Harvey. I still miss the old BCTV days when a BCTV microphone could strike fear in a politician. Jack Webster would be going bananas with this bunch.

    On the roof, it stinks. Especially with all cutbacks and the HST tax shift giving corperations a break and sticking it to those with fixed incomes, the seniors.

    (Response: Thanks. I still hope that one day, BCTV will return to the standards that made it so special and such a journalistic powerhouse … not LEAD its show with stories on how wonderful the skiing season is winding up. But when it competition LEADS their show with an Olympic souvenir sales report … we clearly have a long way to go before the politicians will be quaking at the sign of a microphone.! 🙂 h.o.)

  5. RossK says:


    I hope that others are digging too.

    It’s just that we are now well into Day 6 of this thing and the only digging of any consequence so far has come from Mr. Holman.

    Unfortunately, in my opinion at least Mr. Jonathan Fowlie’s piece in the VSun late last Thursday does not count as it was essentially an excercise in re-hashing, coupled with a little bit of he said/she said journalism in which Mr. Turner was allowed to contradict Mr. Krueger without challenge.


  6. Genuine says:

    Looks like everyone’s thrown their hands up and gave up,that way it makes it easier to reach in and grab our wallets,its time to take to the streets and hold them accountable ourselves !

    PS welcome back Harvey,I hope your trip was satisfactory,there was quite an uproar in the blog world while you were gone.

    (Response: Good to be back. Have one more trip planned in May..then will be around all through the summer right into Fall. I enjoy travelling as part of retirement ..but do miss blogging and all our discussions on here. h.o.)

  7. Frank says:

    Trouble is folks the managements of radio, television and local newspapers are on-side with the present government and they are not going to rock the political boat. Who is pulling the strings? Follow the money and look who has been appointed to nearly all our public businesses. Any media critic of this government has been fired, ‘retired’ and made redundant. Period. The dictators of the early 20th century would be proud of this bunch.

  8. DMJ says:

    It seems with the Liberal government, that those who contribute to the party or are in the party hierarchy, get what they want, no matter the cost.

    The NDP lost badly in 2001 because the electorate (including their own supporters) grew weary of the NDP arrogance and deceit and were left with a rump opposition of two seats.

    I sense the same electorate weariness with the Liberals and in 2013, the Liberals maybe reduced to a rump opposition as well. If there is any movement on those 50% of the voters who did not vote in the last election to an anti government vote, god help those in power.

    On another note, $500 million is what it would cost to start up a Vancouver to Chilliwack interurban and a retractable roof may be seen as a slap in the face of Fraser Valley voters.

    We do live in interesting times.

    Oh yes, welcome back, as you were sorely missed.

    (Response: Thanks. I still think what happens in 2013 will depend a lot on what the NDP does with its own leadership …and how the public reacts to that decision …pro or con. h.o.)

  9. Norm Farrell says:

    Welcome back and good issue for resumption. If this issue goes away without at least minor public outrage, I’m going to write nothing but restaurant reviews and rock concert critiques. Might as well because a brain dead population will have been proven incapable of thought. Maybe other senses work instead.

    (Response: I sense people are aware … they just feel it’s all “normal” …such is the current state of our political standards. But if we all keep exposing issues of concern on our blogs …it can catch on. And if people pass on our Blog locations… we can succeed in getting really good discussions going. h.o.)

  10. Crankypants says:

    Sean Holman’s dissertations on this subject, available at http://www.publiceyeonline.ca, connects a lot of dots between T. Parker Turner and the BC Liberal party. There is nothing at arms length at all from what I can see in this deal.

    The latest article by Will McMartin on the Tyee also connects a lot of dots about new IPP contracts okayed by BC Hydro and BC Liberal financial supporters.

    There is no doubt in my mind that if the NDP were in power rather than the BC Liberal party the MSM would be all over these stories in a heartbeat.

    Winnipeg is building a new football stadium with seating for 33,000 people and expandable to 40,000 for Grey Cup events for the grand sum of $115 million and all we are getting is one stinking roof for about 5 times that amount. Campbell and Co. have some splainin’ to do.

    By the way, welcome back Harvey.

    (Response: The numbers do seem very inflated to me. And projects like this are ripe for runaway costs… favors to supporters… and just plain waste of public money. h..o)

  11. A Dave says:

    Another timeline – perhaps not unrelated to Sean Holman’s? – as assembled in much more detail by V. Palmer and others, which may also be of interest to taxpayers:

    May, 2008: Province announces upgrade to BC Place, including seat replacement, renovations to washrooms and concessions, and the replacement of the Teflon covering with a new retractable roof – total cost estimated at $150 million.

    November, 2008: Province Treasury Board approves PavCo’s $365 million business case for all renovations noted above, with an estimate given by PavCo’s David Podmore that it will cost $200 million for the retractable roof alone – the approved business case is over $200 million higher than the original estimate of only 8 months prior.

    October 23, 2009: Province reapproves PavCo’s revised business plan at $365 million, but only a month later a fixed-price contract to replace the roof (none of the other work is included) with Poole Construction is signed for $468 million – the roof work alone is suddenly $268 million more than Podmore’s $200 million estimate of only 11 months earlier.

    Note: Nearly $100 million in renovations have been reported completed prior to the Olympics, including both a seismic upgrade of BC Place, and reinforcing the concrete ring around the lip of the stadium to ensure the weight of the new roof would be properly supported. These large structural upgrade costs would, therefore, NOT be included in the fixed $468 million work contract with PCL.

    So – during a recession when construction costs have declined significantly and major structural upgrade work has already been completed – the cost of the retractable roof on BC Place Stadium alone is now “fixed” at $468 million, which is a whopping $268 million more than Podmore’s $200 million estimate for the Treasury-approved Business Plan of only 10 months prior.

    Taxpayers are now on the hook for about $100 million for the first phase of pre-Olympic upgrades completed, $12 million for a temporary stadium at the PNE, and the fixed price contract Podmore signed with PCL for $468 million for the retractable roof. This brings the total cost for the BC Place renovations up to $580 million, almost quadruple the original cost estimate of only 18 months earlier (Krueger confirmed just under $600 million all-in cost under questioning in the Legislature prior to Christmas).

    Out in the Real World, if you got a bank’s (Treasury Board) approval for a 200,000 mortgage, and you then went out and bought a house for 468,000, would the bank just fork over the extra 268,000? Would you not be laughed out of the mortgage broker’s office and find yourself in deep, deep financial trouble?

    Was no Due Diligence done on the Business Plan?

    Is everyone at PavCo and the Treasury really, really incompetent at simple math?

    Or, after getting away with building a $400+ million over-budget Convention Centre with virtually no-one in the MSM raising an eyebrow, do they all simply think the people of BC are total suckers and they can get away with ANYTHING they damn well please?

    If anyone can provide a reasonable explanation for these massive cost escalations that makes any sense at all, please share!!!

    (Response: Fascinating!! Thanks. And a bit scary too. h.o.)

  12. RS says:

    Reminds me of a Steven Wright joke:

    “There’s a fine line between fishing and bobbing around in a boat looking like an idiot.”

    So too is there a fine line between corruption and the Campbell government’s modi operandi.

    Good to have you back H.O.

  13. Kim says:

    Welcome back H.O. it’s good to see you pick up on this story. It needs to get out. You have a good point though, about people seeming to think it’s normal for Government to be corrupt. That’s the scary part for me.

  14. Norm Farrell says:

    @ A Dave

    Superb analysis.

    @ H.O.

    Now, that’s value added.

  15. RossK says:

    Fascinating timeline, A Dave.


    It will very interesting to assemble others, including the timing of Concord’s pull-out on their initial plans for a residential development on the site, and the recent legal developments/decisions involving the Edgewater.

  16. RossK says:

    I have used the timeline provided by A Dave, above, to make make the case that it is at least possible that Mr. Turner’s call to Mr. Krueger may have occurred sometime between the summer of 2009 (ie. the time that it was announced by PavCo that Paragon Gaming Inc. was the ‘preferred’ bidder) and the fall of 2009 (ie. the time when it the fixed price contract for the roof was announced by PavCo).

    That post, for anyone interested, is here.

    (Response: Of course I have no direct knowledge myself of the actual timeline. but it sure looks like something the Opposition may want to purse further, dissect and ask a lot of questions about so the public can know the truth. h.o)

  17. SharingIsGood says:

    “… but it sure looks like something the Opposition may want to purse further, dissect and ask a lot of questions about so the public can know the truth.”

    Yes, Harvey, this would be great: if only we had a government that believes in answering questions. I submit that little has changed since the PAB memo went out some time ago: “It’s called ‘Question Period,’ not question and answer period. Previous to that memo and even moreso since, I have seen little but deflection and nonanswers from this government over any serious question in question period.

  18. RossK says:

    Mr. Holman has just expanded the timeline considerably.

    His latest bombshell is here.


  19. Henri Paul says:

    Harv replied to RossK // Apr 7, 2010 at 7:59 pm
    but it sure looks like something the Opposition may want to purse further, dissect and ask a lot of questions about so the public can know the truth.
    The opposition,aah Harv, you were only gone a few weeks, do you not remember,there is no opposition, due a lack of leader ship.

  20. kootcoot says:

    I would like to join most of the above in welcoming you back Harv, and I hope you had a good holiday!

    I do want to take issue with the entire oxymoronic idea of putting the words ‘Culture’ and ‘Arts’ in the same sentence as “Kevin Kruger.” No one I know in Kamloops will admit to having voted for him, nor knowing anyone who will admit to doing so. My next question is – has KKKarl Rove been seen in Kamloops doing some electoral rigging consulting?

    (Response: Good to be back. Don’t think Karl Rove has time for Kamloops..he’s out pushing his book. But I do have a Rove story you may enjoy: in December I had a two hour layover at Dallas Airport and, as I like to do, found an almost empty quiet departure lounge area with CNN playing on a tv screen. As I watched, in walked Rove … glanced at me and a mom with two kids in the lounge … none of uas paying him much attention ..so he took out a laptop, plugged it into a wall socket just a few feet from where I was seated …took out a cellphone ..and glancing at us repeatedly, seemingly to make sure we weren’t paying attention (I pretended not to even know who he was..glanced out at the tarmac and up at CNN ..back at the tarmac totally ignoring him) so he made some phone calls … while of course I listened in to his calls ..while never looking in his direction! Nothing worth reporting …but it was fun to eavesdrop for a while on a totally unsuspecting Karl Rove. LOL! h.o)

  21. Grant G says:

    Welcome back Mr. O……I did miss you, I don`t why,all we do is argue, well, I actually missed your professionalism in reporting.

    I resorted to visiting the dark-side, but I`m back.

    The part that bothers me about this giant casino..

    Casino`s are in decline,mega gambling centers in Macau,asia, ….Vegas numbers are in free fall…

    We have a 9,999.00$ weekly BCLC on line limit, Quebec/Ontario are going on line with gambling,plus all the poker sites like..Poker stars(that`s where I play,with play money)…Bodog..full tilt..Hundreds of others..Keno has gone from a draw every 5 minutes to one draw every 4 minutes…

    Ever go to the bar? I accidentally went into one last week(LOL) ..Pull tabs,Pacific hold em/ keno/21/ horse racing/ 50/50 draw…BC 49/6/49/super max/ hospital lotteries/bingo……..

    The point I am getting at is this, there is so much gambling,every 7/11,every bar,every store,computer/TV…Eveywhere…..Gambling revenues are in decline in North America….

    The money they claim they will make is a pipe dream, and lastly, gambling money is money not spent on new shoes or new underwear, no kids bike, tourist that go broke outside their hotel room.

    Where is one media(besides Ross K) discussing that aspect of the casino?

    Gambling revenues are thinning, the same pie being sliced thinner and thinner.

    Anywho, welcome back, I`m buying when we meet, that was Steak AND Spaghetti wasn`t it?

    (Response: No…I’m back on a diet. I find it hard to believe gambling revenues are down… it’s all over the place. And surely no one would be applying to build a casino hotel if they thought it wouldn’t pay off. h.o)

  22. RossK says:

    Re: The Timeline….

    Jonathan Fowlie, writing in the VSun, has just confirmed A Dave’s report, above, that the date of the $458 million fixed price contract announcement was Oct 23, 2009.


  23. Ron Keillor says:

    Isn’t the cost of the stadium roof about the same as the fast ferries?

    (Response: It could even work out more! After all, remember the little game politicians/bureaucats say when the price comes in hugely overbudget: they say the original estimate was in “today” dollars , but the final cost reflected inflation … or that something unexpectedly rose in price …steel, concrete, sewing thread or … ? ho)

  24. Morven says:

    The saddest part of the whole thing is that Victoria is running this issue as if this was a private corporation with only four shareholders.

    The public interest is not served by the shabby and opaque transactions between the developer (s), elected and unelected officials.

    Have we sunk to a new low? Will someone please tell me.

    (Response: I’m not sure what happened exactly in this case ..but it has always seemed to me that whichever party is in power ..provincially or federally … with a majority and no real threatening Opposition ..they tend to get arrogant and sloppy. And figure they can get away with it because they will somehow bribe the puiblic with their own money just before the next election. (How about a nice HST “rebate” cheque in early 2013. It works too until one day they go too far and the public has had enough. Who knows ..maybe the smell from the roof or the HST will be that trigger? h.o.)

  25. Rocker Rich says:

    How different political priorities might have been in Greater Vancouver had then-premier Mike Harcourt had stood his ground and forced through Steve Wynn’s waterfront casino.

    Just think. We would have had a free convention centre as part of the deal. Wynn’s willingness to have union employees would have guaranteed good-paying jobs. In-house security plus the VPD would have been better able to monitor illegal activities than today’s hodge lodge of small casinos dotting the landscape. Indeed, Wynn’s casino would have been so dominant a destination that the region might well have been spared the buildout by smaller operators in the suburbs.

    By abandoning Wynn, Harcourt cemented his image as a wuss, unwilling to stand up to Connie Fogel let alone the extreme lefties in the NDP.
    With tangible achievements like the casino (which later was resurrected as The Bellagio in Las Vegas by Wynn) and convention centre, Harcourt could have weathered Bingogate and been a strong enough centrist to have won a second term.

    At least that’s how my alternate version of history might well have unfolded.

    (Response: Very intriguing! But to be honest, I never liked the idea of having a huge glitzy Steve Wynn Vegas style casino right on the waterfront. h.o)

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