For over 40 years the University of British Columbia lodge has weathered the Whistler seasons while providing affordable accommodations for students and visitors. But in recent years the structure has begun to show its age, requiring significant investment.
“There are a lot of structural, mechanical, electrical and architectural things that we had to look into,” said Caroline Wong, president of the Alma Mater Society (AMS), UBC's student society that owns and operates the lodge.
“We've done a lot of repairs, a lot of installations and the biggest expense is to repair the roof. Right now as the snow melts we're going to have a leaky roof and that's means more damage to repair.”
With so much repair work to be carried out, the AMS executive committee was seeking up to $30,000 to obtain cost estimates from third-party consultants regarding structural repair, mechanical and plumbing fixtures, architectural modifications and landscaping. The motion failed with the student council not meeting the required majority to approve the expenditure.
This rejection means that other options must be considered, including selling the land on which the lodge now sits.
“We look at this as an intention of selling the lodge, but we did not bring forward a decision that clearly states that,” said Wong.
“We're going to do our homework in terms of how much it would cost to cease operations and clear the site. (We are) engaging all parties involved such as the UBC Ski and Board Club, the Varsity Outdoor Club and other stakeholders. It does cost money to cease operations in terms of our staffing that we have at the lodge, to secure the site and insure it. There's a always a chance for council to change their minds saying they don't want to sell the lodge and actually refurbish it, but that's a discussion for council.”
This is not the first time that the lodge's future has been in jeopardy. In 2012 the AMS held a referendum to authorize the sale of the lodge following a $40,000 operating loss for the 2011 fiscal year. The UBC Ski and Board Club rallied and won the referendum in favour of keeping the lodge.
But with the student council not wanting to invest $30,000 for an estimate, Wong said the decision could be finally made for the AMS to sell the land.
“We estimated through an external consultant that we would benefit up to $2 million from the potential sale of the land. The lodge isn't worth anything commercially in the state that it's in, so we would have to pay to demolish it. The $2 million would go into an endowment fund and the interest earned from the endowment fund would go to fund student services.”
But the Ski and Board Club doesn’t want to see the lodge go just yet, even though UBC students have been utilizing the facility less and less over the last few years.
“Selling wouldn’t even provide a long-term benefit; that money is going to go back into the establishment and students aren’t even going to see it,” said UBC Ski and Board Club president Braden Parker in an interview with Ubyssey, UBC’s student newspaper.
“Maybe (the lodge is) not a need, but I think it is still something that students want, and something that was built by students.”
The council will reconvene in mid April for a final decision on what to do with the lodge.