VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - The stadium that will hold the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Olympics is adequate for the job -- despite plans to replace its aging roof shortly after the Games are over, officials said on Friday.
The provincial government unveiled plans to replace the fabric cover on BC Place Stadium in Vancouver with a retractable roof, but said it was unrealistic to try to complete the project in time for the Olympics.
“That would be rushing it,” said David Podmore, chairman of the provincial corporation that owns the facility -- saying the goal is to have the project completed by early 2011.
“As far as for 2010, we are completely satisfied that this existing system and the building will function very very well,” Podmore told an announcement ceremony at BC Place.
When Vancouver was awarded the 2010 Games by the International Olympic Committee in 2003, the Western Canadian city had to overcome concerns about being the first Winter Olympics host to hold opening and closing ceremonies indoors.
The mountains around Vancouver receive heavy snow in the winter, but the moisture almost always falls as rain in the sea-level city, making it preferable to hold the major ceremonies under cover.
Officials began looking at replacing the air-supported roof after a January 2007 storm caused it to collapse like an imploding souffle into the 60,000-seat facility. It took crews about two weeks to re-inflate the fabric.
Premier Gordon Campbell defended keeping the current roof through the Games, saying related work to upgrade the inside of the stadium will be completed before then.
“It doesn’t take anything away from the Olympics,” he said
Vancouver Organizing Committee Chief Executive John Furlong said he had no problem with the roof decision, and praised the government for pushing ahead with the interior upgrades.
The government refused on Friday to say how much they expected to spend on the upgrades, saying a budget could not be set until more details on the design were compiled. But it said the upgrades can be paid for through the stadium’s current revenue sources and by selling adjacent development space.
The retractable roof, to be modeled on a design now used in Frankfurt, Germany, is part of a larger overhaul of BC Place that Vancouver hopes will land the city a Major League Soccer franchise, officials said.
The downtown facility opened in 1983 and is now primarily used by the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League and for concerts and trade conventions. The facility has also been used in the past for baseball.
Podmore said officials looked at replacing the entire facility, but decided that would be too costly and not make sense environmentally since the current stadium was usable.
Editing by Rob Wilson