Thursday, January 12, 2012

B.C. Place's field of fire

I was first to report in the Vancouver Courier that Telus owns and operates B.C. Place Stadium's external video screens.

This means that area residents complaining of light pollution from privately owned signs on provincially governed B.C. Place property have a case to file a lawsuit.

Telus, which scored a 10-year, $1 billion telecommunications contract with the B.C. government, doesn't want to talk about it. B.C. Pavilion Corporation gave a wordy, non-answer. Minister responsible Pat Bell was hanging out with Telus director and former Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day in Prince George on Jan. 11 and his staff haven't made him available.

Telus installed the telecommunications and technology infrastructure at the stadium, from wifi to video monitors and the infamous outdoor advertising screens. In exchange, it was supposed to get the right to rename the stadium for the corporation or its Optik Internet TV product.

Telus chief financial officer Robert McFarlane told me in mid-October there would be a "coming out party" for what has been called the most technologically advanced stadium on the continent. The Sept. 30 reopening came and went. So did the 99th Grey Cup on Nov. 27. Its still B.C. Place. Neither Telus nor Cisco, which was hired to install its StadiumVision video management system, have done any media hype.

Will the so-called "coming out party" ever happen?

That is one of many unanswered questions.

How much has Telus invested in the stadium and how much is Telus owed, should it remain B.C. Place?

What is the final cost of the stadium for taxpayers? How much is it over the $563 million figure that PavCo has mysteriously stopped quoting?

Will it require the auditor general to investigate?

While we ponder those questions -- and wait for the B.C. Liberal government to provide answers -- the new retractable roof continues to leak whenever Vancouver is hit by heavy rains. A portion of the leak-drenched field was restricted by makeshift barriers on Jan. 5 -- the fifth anniversary of the original roof's embarrassing rip and collapse.

Unfortunately, one problem was not able to solve another problem on Jan. 11. There was no rain when crews accidentally burned the Polytan Ligaturf synthetic playing field. A source told me it happened during a smoke test of the stadium's ventilation. The stadium's next event is the Jan. 19-29 CONCACAF women's Olympic soccer qualifying tournament.

According to a statement from B.C. Place spokesman Duncan Blomfield:

"During routine pyrotechnic testing on Wednesday, some errant sparks from the devices made contact with the turf. In a small area of the field, some of the turf’s fibres were singed. The supplier has examined the field and deemed the required repairs to be minor -- they will repair the affected area, using extra turf kept on site at the stadium, within the next 24 hours."

The workers used to call this place the Blunderdome.


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