Years of debate over what to do with UBC’s Whistler Lodge may be near an end. The Alma Mater Society (AMS) has voted that a decommission plan be prepared by month’s end, meaning this season will likely be the last for the aging, 42-bed hostel.
The decision came down as council voted against an Aug. 19 proposal to redesignate the lodge, currently run as a business, as a service to students. That model projected $30,000 in annual earnings, but was dependant on the Student Spaces Fund to finance the mounting number of repairs and renovations needed on the 48-year-old property.
“The arguments to determine that the lodge was not best as a service really centred around financial responsibility, the distance of the lodge to the base of the mountain and the recent disinterest from campus groups using the lodge, and of course the cost of future upgrades,” said AMS president Caroline Wong.
Between 2005 and 2011 the Whistler Lodge earned a total of about $200,000 in operating income, but spent $500,000 on repairs for a negative cash flow of $300,000, according to a report prepared by for AMS by the Coriolis Consulting Corp.
In March of this year AMS refused a request for a $30,000 estimate to determine the exact cost of all structural, mechanical, electrical and architectural repairs still needed.
Over the past 10 years occupancy at the lodge has been mostly declining. Last year it saw an occupancy rate of just under 40 per cent. Nonetheless, students voted down a referendum last year to sell the property despite those rates and a $40,000 operating loss for the 2011 fiscal year.
Following the Sept. 25 council meeting, the Business and Administration Governance Board will now prepare a decommissioning plan to present to student council at the regular Oct. 23 meeting. After the leadership reviews the options students will likely vote in yet another referendum on whether to sell the property once and for all.
The AMS estimates it could earn $2 million on the lands sale, on which the structure itself would most likely be demolished.