Tag Archives: Whistler Land Co. Developments

Developing Whistler’s Swing

In August 1983, Arnold Palmer opened the first golf course in Canada designed by him.  Palmer posed with buckets of golf balls and was photographed mid-swing surrounded by a crowd of people.  This was the official opening of the Whistler Golf Course as we know it today.

The Whistler Golf Course got its start in 1973, when Bob Bishop and Bernie Brown, the developers of Whistler Cay, began developing an executive-sized nine-hole course near Beaver Lane.  When completed just a few years later Whistler residents and visitors were able to play a round without driving to Squamish (the Squamish Valley course was the first golf course to open in the corridor in 1967).  A temporary pro shop at the new course carried a full range of rental clubs, balls, tees, gloves and other accessories, including caps emblazoned with the course crest: a beaver.  According to Bishop and Brown, the beavers were “the original course engineers who created this land.”

Work on the golf course expansion underway, as seen from the bluffs above.  Whistler Question Collection, 1980.

By 1967 the course had started to host small informal tournaments, both in summer and in winter.  For the course’s first official opening Bishop had planned to host a New Year’s Day tournament.  The plan was for golfers to wear either skis or snowshoes and use golf clubs to hit softballs towards garbage can targets.  Though we do not know if this particular tournament went ahead, there are reports of similar tournaments being played in 1975 to raise money for Whistler Search and Rescue.  Golfers were on skis, and hit red tennis balls into buckets sunk in the snow to make holes.

In 1977 Bishop and Brown announced their plans to expand the small nine-hole course to a full-size 18-hole course.  In order to develop Whistler Cay Heights, they were required to provide a community amenity and an 18-hole golf course was part of the newly formed Resort Municipality of Whistler’s community plan. That summer they began the preliminary clearing, draining, surveying and planning for the course, which was to be designed by Gordie McKay, the golf professional and superintendent in Squamish.  Because of a short construction season, they estimated it would be at least years before the full course would be finished.  In the meantime, the smaller course would be improved and kept open.

Chauffeur Chris Speedie and assistant Rod McLeod take the golf course refreshment buggy around the course during a tournament.  Whistler Question Collection, 1980.

The expansion of the golf course became a key part in the plans for the development of a Town Centre and the transformation of Whistler into a year-round destination resort and was taken over by the Whistler Village Land Company (WVLC) by 1979.  Arnold Palmer chose to make the golf course the site of his first Canadian design, with Gordie McKay staying on as the Canadian consultant for the course.  The clubhouse and shop, along with a hockey rink and swimming pool, were to be incorporated into the planned Resort Centre (today the Whistler Conference Centre).  In September 1981 the golf course received its final inspection by Palmer and looked to be on track to open for the summer of 1982.

Arnold Palmer shows his fine follow through after sending a shot nearly 200 yards with a 9 iron. Palmer stresses proper rhythm rather than pure power to achieve those awesome shots. What a way to open a golf course! Whistler Question Collection, 1983.

This opening was delayed when Whistler, along with the rest of North America, was hit by a major recession in late 1981.  Real estate sales fell and interest rates climbed above 20%, leaving the WVLC with debts of almost $8 million, liabilities around $30 million, and land assets that nobody wanted to buy.  Whistler Land Co. Developments, a Crown corporation, was formed in January 1983 to take over the liabilities and assets of the WVLC, including the golf course.

Under the Whistler Land Co., the full Whistler Golf Course was completed.  It was ready for Palmer’s opening round in August 1983.

This Week In Photos: June 14

This week in June has hosted a variety of events, including high school graduations, construction of summer attractions (and the Village), bicycle rodeos and picket lines.

1978

The Valleau Logging Camp Cookhouse near Mons Station stands deserted but not for long. Local residents plan to renovate the building and operate a food service for the valley this summer.

Pemberton Secondary Class of 1978. Not in order, the students are: Sherry Bilenduke, Hugh Blackstock, Kim Blundell, Helen Bush, Pat Bush, Lois Carson, Gary Decker, David Fairhurst, Carol Gilmore, Ken Gilmore, Laurie Hamula, Cathy Heine, Polly Jang, James Kernaghan, Norman LeBlanc, Anita Lever, Spencer Lowenberg, Edward Mah, Carola Marinus, Selma Miller, Bert Perkins, Ann Peterson, Doris Rollert, Kelly Ross, Philip Tourand, Conroy van der Lee, Peter Vogler, Celeste Watson, Michael Wetti, Michael Wilson, Joanne Wood.

The graduating students from the Garibaldi/Whistler area with their parents at the Pemberton Secondary Graduation on Friday.

Whistler students from Myrtle Philip School participated in a district-wide track meet held in Squamish.

1980

Whistler Land Company’s new office is barely occupied last week as the first town centre offices are occupied.

Work on the golf course as seen from the bluffs where the building lots are situated.

Sandra Pollock and Kathy Francis prepare the models and… KABOOM!…..

Attorney-General Alan Williams, MLA for West Vancouver-Howe Sound, discusses the Barrier report and the BC Government’s Order in Council that froze all land in Garibaldi with area residents.

Lift Co. employee seeds lower northside runs to help cut down erosion. Runs are almost completed at lower elevations.

All that remains of a ’77 Ford pickup after it left the road early Saturday morning.

1981

The first glulam being hoisted into place over the swimming pool area of the Resort Centre.

Al Raine (left) takes publishers from around the province on a tour of Whistler Town Centre.

Betty Chaba strums a tune while relaxing at Alta Lake in front of JB’s.

Garibaldi Building Supplies’ expanded new yard is ready for a busy summer season.

Some members of the Whistler Rotary Club.

1983

The most prudent bikers in the RCMP bicycle rodeo held Saturday, June 12 in Village Square (l to r) Simon Bellar, Samantha O’Keefe, Jody Rustad, Nicolas Busdon (overall winner). Melanie Busdon, Dave Den Duyf and Davey Blacklock who won the bicycle donated by Whistler Chamber of Commerce.

Municipal trail crews cut through the brush to make the final connection between the Alpine Meadows trail and the Meadow Park trail (under construction). Paving to complete the trail system will begin at the end of July.

These three answered this week’s question: Graeme Mounsey, Traveller, Sydney, Australia; Walter Therrien, Caretaker – Capilano Mobile Park, North Vancouver; Anne Crocker, Travel Counsellor – North Van Chamber of Commerce, West Vancouver.

If you attend the Sea Festival parade July 23, you’ll be able to enjoy the final results of this artist’s rendering for a Whistler float. The illustration will be used as a guide for constructing the float, estimated to cost $2,500.

1984

Kids, cars and parents turned out Saturday for a car wash and bake sale that netted over $200 for the school’s parent/teacher group. Police cars, a fire truck and a whole flotilla of private vehicles stopped for spring cleaning.

Emergency Services (last year called Tri-Services) overcame a mid-game spurt by the team from Citta to post a 17-12 victory on Monday in Whistler Beer League slo-pitch softball league action. Emergency Services now has a sparkling record of three wins and no losses.

Three (two pictured) locked-out truckers picketed The Grocery Store in the village Tuesday, preventing other union members from bringing supplies to the store. Picketing trucker Dayton MacKenzie said they are protesting their employer’s decision to use “scab” drivers for food deliveries. Employer Slade and Steward Ltd. has locked out Vancouver employees, and other employees in BC are on strike as of Tuesday. Grocery Store owner Geoff Power was unavailable for comment at press time.

An Alpine Paving crew was hard at work last Wednesday paving the mini golf course just behind L’Apres at the gondola. Whistler Mountain hopes to have the Tattersfield and Associates designed course ready for operation by Saturday, June 16, but promise to have it ready for play by the following weekend. Eighteen holes will cost players $2.

No one skis anymore at the former Rainbow Ski area just off Highway 99 between Alpine Meadows and Emerald Estates but at one time it was the only place in Whistler open for night skiing. The ski jump was built by volunteers in the mid-1970s (though the date was recorded as mid-1970s in the Question accounts told to the Whistler Museum put the building of the ski jump earlier in the 1960s; the last competitions held on the ski jump occurred in the mid-1970s.).

Grand Plans for Whistler Resort Centre

Walking through Olympic Plaza in the winter, chances are you’ll see some people out skating on the ice.  Plans for an ice rink in Whistler Village date back to the 1980s, though the original plans looked a lot different than the rink you see today.

In March 1980 construction began on the Whistler Village Resort/Recreation Centre.  According to a write up in Whistler News, Summer 1980, the Resort Centre would be a “three-level, multi-purpose, indoor recreation and conference centre” or approximately 72,000 square feet (the Whistler Conference Centre today is somewhere over 40,000 square feet).  The proposed budget for the project was in the $5.5 to 5.8 million range with funding provided by the Province of British Columbia in the form of a TIDSA (Travel Industry Development Subsidiary Agreement), the Recreation Facility Assistance and the Whistler Village Land Company.  This budget did not include operating costs.

What could have been: An artist’s rendering of the proposed Whistler Resort Centre, 1980. Whistler Question Collection.

The list of anticipated recreation activities that would have been housed in the Resort Centre is extensive.  Plans included a 20,000 sq. ft. Olympic-sized ice rink, a 3 x 20 metre swimming pool, a whirlpool, saunas, four racquetball courts, a squash court, locker room facilities, the Golf Pro Shop for the Whistler Golf Course, and even a restaurant.

Located on the top floor, the restaurant and lounge area would seat 320 people and “provide guests with views of the ice-skating and swimming activities as well as the surrounding mountain landscape.”

The plans for the lower level of the Resort Centre. Whistler Question Collection.

Many of the proposed facilities were multi-use.  A system of interlocking insulated panels meant that in just under four hours the ice rink could be transformed to either carpeting or astroturf to host banquets, staged performances, tennis matches or basketball games.  The Golf Pro Shop would be transformed in the winter months into a cross-country skiing centre.

When a recession hit North America and Whistler in late 1981 the Resort Centre, like much of the Village, was still under construction.  With the economy failing, real estate sales falling and interest rates climbing above 20%, the Whistler Village Land Company found themselves with debts of almost $8 million, liabilities coming to $30 million, and assets in the form of land that nobody wanted to buy.

The Resort Centre under construction, along with the rest of the Whistler Village. Eldon Beck Collection.

In January 1983 the provincial government under Premier Bill Bennett stepped in and formed Whistler Land Co. Developments, a Crown corporation to take over the liabilities and assets of the Whistler Village Land Company.  Chester Johnson, a Vancouver businessman, was chosen by Bennett to chair the board of this new Crown corporation and take over the development of Whistler Village.

Before the building could be reconstructed some of it had to be deconstructed. Whistler Question Collection, 1984.

One of the decisions made by Johnson was to reconstruct the Resort Centre as a conference centre without all of the extra recreational facilities.  A convention business consultant and a Los Angeles architectural company were brought in to convert the Whistler Village Resort/Recreation Centre to the Whistler Conference Centre, a year-round facility meant to attract conventions and visitors to the resort.  Work was well underway on the Whistler Conference Centre by the end of 1984 and was completed by 1986, with no ice rink in sight.  Whistler wouldn’t get an indoor ice rink until 1993 with the opening of the arena at the Meadow Park Sports Centre.