Minister says ICBC chair called about BC Place's roof

The province's tourism minister has said T. Richard Turner, the Insurance Corp. of British Columbia's chair, told him the lack of a retractable roof for BC Place could be a "deal breaker" for Paragon Gaming Inc., which has signed a 70-year lease agreement with PavCo to develop a new entertainment complex near the stadium. Yesterday morning, Public Eye exclusively revealed Mr. Turner's longstanding business relationship with Paragon Gaming, which also owns Vancouver's Edgewater Casino. A spokesperson for the Las Vegas-based firm told us Mr. Turner "was not involved" in Paragon's response to PavCo's request for proposals to develop the lands west of BC Place. And, during estimates debate, Tourism, Culture and the Arts Minister Kevin Krueger reiterated the ICBC chair "did not participate in the negotiations at all and had no influence in the content of the lease whatsoever." But, after the Crown corporation selected Paragon, Mr. Krueger - who has said he also was not personally involved in that decision - received a telephone call from Mr. Turner sometime "before winter."

Under questioning from New Democrat tourism critic Spencer Herbert, the minister explained Mr. Turner told him during the call, "BC Place wouldn't be as attractive a site without a retractable roof. (Paragon Gaming) might not be interested, and if they were, it would not be for the kind of financial considerations that they had put on the table."

That retractable roof was first announced in May 2008. But, on October 23, 2009, the government revealed its cost would be $485 million, justifying that expenditure by stating the roof would enable PavCo to "attract a broader range of sporting and entertainment event," provide "a revitalized home to the BC Lions and allow for the establishment of the first season of the Vancouver Whitecaps as a Major League Soccer franchise in 2011."

"The critic knew - a lot of people did - that the bids to build the retractable roof had exceeded the estimate and exceeded it fairly substantially," Mr. Krueger continued. "People knew without being told that we would be wrestling with that question, and we obviously were. Mr. Turner knew that..."

"He felt that it would be beneficial to all concerned if I knew that that could be a deal breaker and certainly wouldn't enable the same contract that they had in mind when they believed that there'd be a retractable roof on the stadium. That was the extent of it."

During estimates debate, Minister Krueger also stated Paragon was one of two companies that responded to PavCo's request for proposals.

"By June 2009 it was obvious that Paragon's was the most attractive proposal. But then a lot of negotiations ensued between PavCo and Paragon, ultimately resulting only recently in a contract," he said. "By the fall it looked pretty clear to people that we'd like to make a deal with them, that a deal could be made. But it was conditional upon a retractable roof."

Public Eye placed requests for comment to Paragon Gaming and Mr. Turner's office last night. We have not yet received a response.

3 Comments

Maybe someone can find out how Winnipeg is going to build a new football stadium for $115 million which will be able to accomodate up to 40,000 spectators for events such as the Grey Cup. This new stadium will have 80% of their seats under cover.

All we are getting in a new roof at approximately 5 times the cost. Someting doesn't add up on this deal. Did anyone even bother looking into how much it would cost to raze BC Place and build a new stadium?

Also, what does a retractable roof have to do with the operations of the casino complex? Is the attraction of BC Place going to be the roof or what is being presented inside?

Maybe it's scenarios such as this that have led most of the states south of the border to require referendums before making such expenditures. Our politicians are a little too quick to spend someone else's money.

Crankypants, I'm with you on this. Totally. Surprise, but I'm always for good government.

Gordon Campbell has got to be retired. He's lost his grip. He won't survive this contagion, because Sean Holman is not going to let go... :-). Nor are you, it seems.

Quite frankly this is the crisis so many have waited for to take Gordon Campbell out/down or in my case to retirement. The perfect examplar that will bring out the people a hero of mine has rubbed the wrong way, I'm afraid. For in politics beyond a certain level, you just accumulate enemies. Just ask Tony Blair or Glen Clark or Brian Mulroney.

I'm happy to fan the flames on this while Bryan Adams' "There Will Never Be Another Tonight" plays. Big time. Especially if we can get a leadership spill... and if Carole James can't kick it into high gear now, she never will but Lana Popham could put her hand up... and if Mary Polak can just declare an interest in the Premiership coupled to a pledge to restore EIBI and correct the Great Equalitarian Error... sounds glorious and another coming of BC Cincinnatus to me.

So to all you political junkies... 8 AM Sunday... C-FAX 1070. Be there for Sean and listen. The world's a changin'

This new roof is an obscenity. They claim there's no money for amateur sports, school athletic programs, all kinds of arts programs---yet they're pouring money into this totally unnecessary top of the line (most expensive in the world) project. And they outsourced the steel fabrication jobs to washington and quebec workers. These guys are criminals. Gordon Campbell has to be taken down.

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