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Reality check: Stadium for sale?

Synopsis: Is the retractable roof on hell closing and a deep freeze coming? NDP, the party famous for nationalizing auto insurance in the early 1970s, is pondering privatization of BC Place stadium.

What: Leader Adrian Dix promised to appoint a blue-ribbon panel to review B.C. Pavilion Corporation's operations. It would have 90 days to report back. Dix said he is open to the idea of selling the stadium, which was renovated for $514 million, and, perhaps, the $883 million Vancouver Convention Centre expansion to a private operator.

When: Wednesday morning, the last, big announcement before the unveiling of the party's platform. The one that Premier Christy Clark has been eager to see for so long.

Where: Creekside Park in Vancouver, by the shores of False Creek. BC Place was over Dix's right shoulder and Rogers Arena, his left. With impeccable and coincidental timing, two workers could be seen scaling the roof support cables. Crews have taken advantage of sunny days the last two years to mop-up grease that has leaked from the cables installed by Freyssinet of France. Portions of the roof have been replaced because of the stains.

What he said: Dix was careful to pledge allegiance to the B.C. Lions and Vancouver Whitecaps. Could their respective owners be asked to come to the table with ideas and even chequebooks? "Skills training, healthcare, education and managing our land base are all fundamental priorities for government," Dix said. "Retractable roofs and stadium management, in my view, are not."

Why: The NDP wants to score points with soft Liberal voters, perhaps even Conservatives. John Cummins accused Dix of stealing his thunder. The Conservatives slammed PavCo in an April 18 news release. While Clark has confused many by promoting a vision of a Debt Free B.C. that could be decades away, Dix used the announcement to point out that PavCo is carrying a $1.247 billion debt for its two projects, that came in a combined $537 million over original budget.

What she said: Premier Christy Clark was in Sicamous with her campaign entourage and ridiculed Dix, according to the Vancouver Sun.

"The first thing I thought when I heard this was somebody better stop handing Adrian Dix napkins because every time he gets one, he writes a new policy on the back of it," she said.

During a March 10, 2012 appearance on The Sport Market with Tom Mayenknecht on Team 1040, Dix blasted the Liberals for cancelling the 20-year, $40 million naming rights contract with Telus. Asked what an NDP government would do, Dix admitted all options would be considered, including privatization.

The Liberals have yet to release a copy of the BC Place renovation business case, whether it's on letterhead, a PDF or a napkin. While he was premier, Gordon Campbell was asked about the refusal to release it via Freedom of Information. He said it was a cabinet document and it must stay secret.

Dix and the NDP caucus refused free tickets to the 2011 reopening and instead sat way up in level 4. Meanwhile, Clark was schmoozing with invited guests who were wined and dined in the Edgewater Lounge and the exclusive BC Place Suite. One of her guests was Patrick Kinsella.

Need to know:

What a difference four years makes: The 2009 NDP campaign shied away from any grand announcements critical of BC Place Stadium, which was less than a year from being the most important Olympic venue. A request to interview leader Carole James about WorkSafeBC investigations into worker safety and training violations was denied. The NDP president then was Jeff Fox, a B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union leader.

Dix was very careful in saying Wednesday that should the stadium be privatized, "terms and conditions of employment of the workers at B.C. Place will be protected."

Politicized board: PavCo's board was formerly chaired by David Podmore, who was Jack Poole's right-hand man at Concert Properties and a staunch supporter of Gordon Campbell. Concert began as Vancouver Land Corporation and included collaboration with then B.C. Federation of Labour head Ken Georgetti.

When Podmore retired from the PavCo board, minister responsible Rich Coleman appointed Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender the chair. Other new additions included ex-NPA councillor Suzanne Anton and Frank Palmer, one of Fassbender's former cohorts at the DDB advertising agency. Fassbender (Surrey-Fleetwood) and Anton (Vancouver-Fraserview) are running for the Liberals on May 14.

In an April 18 news release, Conservative leader John Cummins called PavCo a Liberal "dumping ground."

Nicknames, get your nicknames: The stadium opened June 19, 1983 -- six weeks after the Social Credit election win -- and was nicknamed "Bill Bennett's Bubble" for the inflated roof. When Gordon Campbell ordered a retractable roof, and announced it May 16, 2008, it was re-dubbed "Campbell's Convertible."

Clark was on-hand in her B.C. Lions jersey to cut the ribbon and scan tickets on Sept. 30, 2011. So it's now "Christy's Crown," for the shape of the towers and cables, on which lights twinkle at night.

Rating: B.

Bob Mackin is part of The Tyee's 2013 B.C. election team.

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