B.C. Place roof raises cost questions

More questions are being raised about the cost overruns associated with B.C. Place’s retractable roof following the release of new figures by the NDP, which suggest it’s costing far more to maintain the $500-million roof than initially promised.

Vancouver MLA Spencer Chandra-Herbert said the figures, released through a freedom of information request, show annual maintenance costs for the roof have more than doubled, compared with the previous roof, which did not retract.

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The new roof became fully operational in 2011.

Maintenance cost in 2010, with the old roof, was $152,439. In 2014, the cost was $348,096.

It’s an increase at odds with a cost estimate released by the government in 2009 during the initial days of the project, Chandra-Herbert said.

At that time, the province said in a statement the state-of-the-art roof would realize savings of $100,000 in annual maintenance costs.

“To see, in fact, the maintenance cost of the roof [increase], and not be cut by $100,000 as the government promised, there is really no excuse,” Chandra-Herbert said. “And it points out to me that this project was badly managed from start to finish.”

PavCo, the Crown corporation that oversees B.C. Place, said in an emailed statement that it was not accurate to directly compare the maintenance costs of the two roofs.

For one, the old, air-supported roof was static and not retractable, the statement said.

“Additionally, portions of the maintenance program for the old air-supported roof were deferred once the retractable roof project was announced,” it said.

PavCo said the annual cost of maintaining and operating the retractable roof is between $250,000 and $350,000 a year. This covers costs associated with operating the roof, cleaning and inspection and general and preventative maintenance.

The cost of replacing the roof has been the source of considerable scrutiny for years.

The government’s initial budget in 2009 for the replacement, and other renovations, was $365 million.

Soon after, it increased to $563 million. In 2012, the government said the final price tag was $514 million.

The roof has also made headlines for leaking water during a Whitecaps game, and an incident when grease and oil was dripping from its support cables.

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