Oct 30-Nov 5, 2007  Issue #940

By Andrew Petrozzi

North America’s second largest multi-use sport-medical facility could soon call Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby Mountain campus home.

The $250 million Burnaby Mountain Sport + Medical (BMSM) private sector development would include:

  • a 5,000-seat field house and 2,000-seat aquatic centre with two new synthetic turf fields atop the two structures;
  • a sport science medical and office complex;
  • a fitness centre;
  • a 1,500-stall parking garage;
  • a commercial and retail component; and
  • a proposed World Anti-Doping Agency laboratory.

Burnaby Mountain Sport + Medical proponents: (left to right) Beverley Briscoe, Ryan Skomorowski and Paul Clough.

The project, which is scheduled to break ground next year, would be built on lands at the west end of campus that the university had earmarked for the Olympic speed skating oval before it was moved to Richmond.

The overall project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2010, although some parts of it would be open earlier.

SFU would provide approximately nine acres of land for a nominal $25 for a 99-year lease and would in turn get majority use of the field house and substantial use of the rest of the facilities.

The project’s developer would cover the operating and maintenance costs.

Skomorowski said BMSM is receiving no funds from VANOC. The project’s equity partners come from within the private development company’s ownership group. Major institutional investors will provide the long-term funding. Both SFU and Partnerships BC on behalf of the provincial government and the investors have conducted due diligence on the project.

“Once you had SFU’s vision and our vision down and lined them up, it grew in scope and size to accommodate everything that we all wanted to do. It really is a co-mingling of visions,” said SFU alumni Ryan Skomorowski, 29, president and CEO of Burnaby Mountain Sport + Medical. “This was originally just a project of passion.”

Skomorowski graduated from SFU in 2002 in history and economics and was a former member of the varsity swim team. After graduation, he remained heavily involved with the swim program as its team manager while working in wealth management at Union Securities Ltd.

What started as a side project to improve SFU’s athletic amenities, particularly its aquatic facilities, soon turned into a new career for Skomorowski.

“There are different elements of the project that are more supportive financially than others, and it creates a unique model throughout when they are combined,” said Skomorowski. “We’re really self-generating demand. These buildings are of such a size and scope that it really creates a lot of demand and cross-revenue streams.”

BSMS has established a partnership with SFU and the United Soccer League’s Vancouver Whitecaps FC that involves a training centre, use of the rooftop fields and fitness and rehabilitation areas. It builds on the relationship between SFU and the Whitecaps. BSMS hopes to set up a similar arrangement with the Canadian Football League’s B.C. Lions.

Skomorowski has secured Goldcorp Inc. director and former Industry Training Association (ITABC) chairwoman Beverley Briscoe and Imperial Parking Canada Corp.’s non-executive chairman Paul Clough as members of the project’s executive committee.

Clough is managing director; Ryan’s father, Nick Skomorowski, an accomplished mega-project development and construction manager, is project manger. Stuart Ballantyne of Molson Indy Vancouver fame has been retained as the project’s event planning and management director.

The board of advisers includes Bob Ackles, president and CEO of the B.C. Lions, and BC Hydro director and former Orca Bay Sports CEO Stephen Bellringer.

Great Canadian Gaming Corp. vice-president Chuck Keeling is also on the board.

SFU director of public affairs and media relations Don MacLachlan said the university is awaiting the project’s final proposal.

“And that’s what the developer is madly doing with pens in both hands,” MacLachlan said.

“It’s a very interesting project. It would give SFU access to athletic facilities that we now don’t have. [That] sounds great, but we do have to wait and see what the final proposal is.”

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan was more emphatic in the city’s support for the development.

“We’re aware of the difficulties that they’ve [SFU] faced in their recreational facilities over the years,” he said, “so this opportunity to have a massive improvement in their recreational facilities is very welcome, not only for SFU, but for the community residents who are in UniverCity and the students who are living up there.”

He confirmed that the city’s planning department is working on the details with the developer and that SFU has assured Burnaby the project is financially viable.

“One of the wonderful things about the development,” Corrigan said, “is [that] though the primary purpose is to service university students, the facilities will be open to the general public, and will be dependent on use by the general public.”

The private sector investment in BMSM is believed to be the largest injection of private capital in the history of Canadian universities.

“P3s are the future for public institutions to help achieve their goals, and you just need a way to bring in the business community to help support these institutions in a productive way,” said Skomorowski. “That way everybody can win.”


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