Day OK with ROX multi-million dollar price tag

Expenses mounted and opening dates were set back in order to provide a more engaging experience at ROX

Carol Day, a Richmond city councillor who pledged fiscal prudence in being elected last year, said she is “less than warm and fuzzy” about the City of Richmond’s past Olympic-related expenses but is nevertheless hopeful a new museum at the Richmond Olympic Oval will pay dividends.

“It’s a major museum and this is going to be a destination for visitors. …I believe it will be very successful,” said Day.

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The $10 million Richmond Olympic Experience (ROX) opened to the public last week. It’s the first International Olympic Committee-sanctioned museum in North America to celebrate sports and athletes.

The project represents an investment of just over $2.5 million of municipal tax dollars in addition to $500,000 from the federal government and $250,000 from the provincial government.

Last December Richmond Olympic Oval Corporation staff, led by CEO George Duncan — who is also the City of Richmond’s CAO — asked Richmond city council to increase the museum’s funding with $4.3 million worth of sponsorship revenue or in-kind donations (artifacts).

The extra money was to largely pay for new interactive games — ROX now features one-of-a-kind sports simulators, such as Paralympic skiing and rowing.

Also last December the city announced the museum would be open by spring of this year. Since that time the Oval added another $485,000 from its capital reserves (subsidized by the City of Richmond) to fund ROX.

While there have been no public updates on ROX to council since January 2014 Day said Duncan “has demonstrated there is a model behind it.

“Sometimes I have to look outside my comfort zone and trust the powers that be,” said Day.

“I’m prepared to be a little more patient for a little more longer to see how it plays out,” she said, describing the project as “in for a penny, in for a pound.”

Earlier this year Day had expressed concern over the Oval’s $500,000 increase to marketing new amenities at the facility.

No details of where that money is spent specifically have been made public.

“(ROX) is not a separate independent line of business, so its costs, including marketing, are integrated into the overall operating budget for the Oval,” said city spokesperson Ted Townsend who noted ROX is expected to turn a profit in time.

 Its annual operating costs are estimated to be about $350-400,000 and the Oval is targeting 11,590 visitors in 2016.

“Our initial numbers are conservative as many commercial tour operators often take a year or two to add new attractions to their tour itineraries, so it will take some time to develop the visitor base,” said Townsend.

“The numbers seem to be justifying the expenditures,” said Day.

Revenue sources from ROX will include general admissions ($17 for adults, $11 for children), annual memberships ($30), tours, programming (ROX Talks, ROX Days, film screenings), corporate events and sponsorship.

“The numbers seem to be justifying the expenditures,” said Day.

Coun. Alexa Loo, who, along with Day as a rookie councillor, did not initially vote to build ROX, said while she expects the museum to make money, it will also provide intangible benefits to the community.

“It’s been a cool thing for people to see and it brings home the spirit of the Olympics,” said Loo, adding that other museums may not necessarily turn a profit, as well.

Loo added that an annual membership for a parent of children under five years of age (whose admission is free) could provide fun entertainment at a good value.

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Photos: ROX museum is open

Richmond residents were invited to re-live some of the city’s local and Olympic sporting past as the much anticipated Richmond Olympic Experience (ROX) opened exclusively to . . .

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