Victoria Commonwealth Games bid has $955M budget, envisions new stadium

The Victoria bid committee for the 2022 Commonwealth Games unveiled a budget Wednesday of $955 million. It envisions a regional stadium in the West Shore, arena for gymnastics at a site to be determined, and later converted to an Olympic-size ice rink, and temporary venues which include beach volleyball in front of the legislature and three-on-three basketball at Ship Point in the Inner Harbour. The Athletes Village and Officials Village would be built near Costco in Langford and converted to housing post-Games.

The bid committee is asking for $400 million from the federal government and $400 million from the B.C. government, with no commitment yet from either. While NDP Premier John Horgan and Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver expressed initial excitement about a Victoria Games, B.C. Finance Minister Carole James is being abundantly cautious. The Games require a government body, in this case the province, to guarantee any cost overruns.

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Bid chairman David Black said he has met with James.

“Her job is to say no. We have to convince her. It is not going to be easy,” he said.

“Carole James is going to look me in the eye about me saying there will be no cost overruns, and say: ‘You prove to me how you will be able to do that.’ ”

Black said he is confident he can make the case. He said venues and other plans can be scaled back, if an unforeseen need arises, and there is $75 million being budgeted as a legacy fund for sport development that can also act as a cushion.

“There is no risk whatsoever of an overrun,” he said.

“We have a very workable plan. And the benefits to Victoria of the 2022 Games would be huge. They are a secondary set of Games but they are still important, taking in one-third of the world population. Gold Coast [2018 Commonwealth Games host city in Australia] expects a viewing audience of 1.5 billion. We will get above that because our Games plans will play to the Internet, as well, with cameras 24/7 on each venue.”

The federal government, meanwhile, must also consider 2026, in which Canada will likely host 10 World Cup soccer games, while Calgary is considering bidding for that year’s Winter Olympics.

“The federal government is generally supportive of us but we haven’t got there, yet [in terms of a firm commitment],” said Black.

The federal government gave $700 million for the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games, he noted.

Greater Victoria municipalities will be asked to contribute $25 million of in-kind services for 2022.

Black said with the provincial and federal spending on the event, Greater Victoria would be “getting back dollars in return for pennies.”

The rest would come from sponsorships and marketing.

Black said security is mostly a federal responsibility. “Toronto’s security was $180 million for the 2015 Pan Am Games, but for a huge, spread out region which added to the costs. Our Games will be compact compared to that. Security experts say you can’t forecast, and that it can range, and depends on what happens in the world up to 2022. But I would be amazed if security costs were $50 million. Victoria is one of the safest places in the world to host the Commonwealth Games.”

There are those who disagree.

“Taxpayers may need a seatbelt, a crash helmet and a roll-bar before this is all over,” said Stan Bartlett, chairman of Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria, and a leading Victoria 2022 Games bid critic.

“The estimated 2022 Games budget of $955 million is simply an illusion and in our view, the final costs will be more in the order of $1.5 billion. In the post-911 era, security includes the RCMP, CSIS, customs, local police forces, and the armed forces with costs spread between multiple venues in Victoria and Vancouver. If history is any guide, security in 2014 Glasgow [Commonwealth Games] cost about $140 million, and at the Vancouver Olympics an estimated budget of $200 million for security ended up costing the taxpayers $1 billion. Mr. Black’s estimate of . . . $50 million for security costs is a wishful illusion. Realistically, security costs at 2022 Games will be in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Meanwhile, adding a lane each way to the Trans Canada Highway between the West Shore Games cluster and McKenzie Avenue is not part of the budget, but is a bid recommendation.

“It would act as a catalyst and solve the Colwood Crawl,” said Black.

“[The province] did the Sea-to-Sky Highway and LRT [Canada Line] for the 2010 Winter Olympics and that cost billions. We can do [extra lanes] for millions, not billions.”

The 2022 Games do not involve a normal bidding process, but an emergency replacement situation, after the Games were withdrawn from the original host, Durban, in March when the South African organizers could not meet scheduled financial obligations. That will leave the new 2022 host — Victoria, Liverpool, Birmingham or Kuala Lumpur — only 4.5 years to organize the Games instead of the normal seven.

“This is unlike any situation the [Commonwealth Games Federation] has ever faced,” said Victoria committee member and former basketball coach Ken Shields.

Added Black: “[Victoria] would have no chance bidding for a normal Games. Our only chance is in a disruption like this.”

Therein is also the drawback. The deadline to submit a detailed, 300-page bid book is Sept. 30. Each bidding city must then make a presentation to the Commonwealth Games Federation in London in October. The host city for 2022 is scheduled to be announced in December.

“Timing is the biggest challenge,” Black said. “But we have plans in place.”

Even at that, he said the Victoria bid may be forced to ask the federation for an extension to the Sept. 30 bid deadline, particularly if the province and federal government have not decided on funding by then.

“I think the other bidding cities would be delighted [with an extension], because they probably need one, too,” Black said.

Liverpool and Birmingham are farther ahead in the process because they were already planning on bidding for the 2026 Commonwealth Games.

Other venue highlights of a 2022 Victoria Games include boxing at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, judo and wrestling at the Q Centre, netball at UVic CARSA Gym, field hockey at UVic, mountain biking at Bear Mountain, triathlon at Elk Lake, lawn bowls at Juan de Fuca, with three sports on the Lower Mainland — rugby sevens at B.C. Place, and badminton and table tennis at the Richmond Oval.

Swimming is to take place at Saanich Commonwealth Place, which would need to be expanded from its current eight lanes to the now internationally-mandated 10 lanes.

The West Shore Games stadium would have a federation-mandated 40,000 seats for the opening and closing ceremonies, and track and field. After the Games, it would be reduced to a permanent facility of 10,000.

“There is a pressing need for a new regional stadium,” said Lois Smith, director of sport on the Victoria bid committee.

A total of 20,000 volunteers would be needed, up from the 14,000 in 1994 when Victoria hosted the Commonwealth Games. There are to be 6,500 athletes and 1,100 officials from 71 nations or territories in 2022, up from the 2,557 athletes in the 1994 Games.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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