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$450 -million complex to be built next to BC Place

VANCOUVER -- The B.C. government confirmed all the rumours Friday, announcing a $450-million entertainment complex will be attached to BC Place Stadium, anchored by a 110,000-square-foot, 24-hour casino.

Premier Gordon Campbell made the announcement at a news conference inside the stadium, flanked by Housing Minister Rich Coleman, Tourism Minister Kevin Krueger, BC Pavilion Corporation chairman David Podmore and representatives of Las Vegas-based casino operator Paragon Development Ltd.

PavCo is the Crown corporation that operates BC Place, while Paragon owns the Edgewater Casino at the Plaza of Nations.

"This project will spark significant economic activity," said Campbell, noting that it will create about 8,500 direct and indirect jobs during construction and operations.

and operations.

"When you take this in concert with the renovation of BC Place, the new retractable roof, this is about $1 billion in construction, economic opportunity and development that will be created in the heart of the east part of downtown Vancouver," he said.

Paragon's $6-million annual lease will help defray the cost of the stadium's $458-million retractable roof, construction on which begins in April, Campbell said.

PavCo confirmed it has signed a 70-year lease with Paragon for the two acres of land immediately west of BC Place.

The casino will have about 1,500 slot machines and 150 tables, and 

is expected to generate $130 million in annual gambling revenue.

Also on the property will be two internationally branded hotels, one price-conscious and the other of a luxury brand, Paragon president Scott Menke said.

The main building's 25,000-square-foot rooftop will connect the two hotels and provide meeting spaces, a pool area and a "nighttime destination for partying, entertainment and everything else that goes along with it."

The hotels will have five restaurants between them, ranging from "organic homegrown" to "chef signature," Menke said.

The Edgewater Casino will close when the new facility opens, essentially expanding into the new stadium-side location, pending a rezoning application to the city.

Coun. Raymond Louie said many factors will have to be addressed, including an outstanding agreement dating back to when Edgewater opened in 2005.

"Edgewater was to support Planet Bingo in finding a permanent location and stabilizing its revenue stream," Louie said, referring to the charitable Bingo operation on Main Street. "It's important to support all those charities that get their revenue from Planet Bingo."

Planet Bingo contributes to nearly 100 charities, according to its website, including the Canadian Red Cross, the Downtown Eastside Women's Shelter and the Vancouver Rape Relief Society.

Louie said he hopes the larger casino will lead to larger contributions to legacy funding.

"Currently, Edgewater provides us with about $250,000 a year in inner-city funding. I expect that if there's an expansion from its current state into a new facility at BC Place Stadium, they would also contribute more greatly to the community," he said.

Coun. Geoff Meggs reiterated his warning that a heated public debate will likely ensue.

"In my experience, debate about casino development is always controversial," Meggs said, although he acknowledged he has received no complaints about the Edgewater Casino.

Construction is expected to begin in early 2011 and be completed in mid-2013.

Neighbourhood residents had mixed reactions.

"It's going to get really busy around here," Paul Gill said. "There are going to be a lot of people running around, possibly drunk people or whatnot."

Angela Stevenson called the project idea "gross," adding she will likely move out of the downtown core when it materializes.

"The things I love about downtown are that it's close to the water and Stanley Park," Stevenson said. "I love being outside, being close to the water and hiking. I really find casinos depressing and sad."

Andrea Toyad, who recently moved into the area, was open to the idea.

"It will increase the price of my property and this area won't be as dead," Toyad said. "At night, this place gets a bit more dead than it does on Robson Street."

BC Place is home to the BC Lions, regularly hosts Grey Cup games and, starting next year, will welcome Vancouver's Major League Soccer franchise.

awoo@vancouversun.com

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