Olympic Silver medal swimmer Ryan Cochrane speaks at a press conference announcing the support of $1.5 million in combined national and provincial funding for a high-performance trust fund at Saanich Commonwealth Place.

Olympic Silver medal swimmer Ryan Cochrane speaks at a press conference announcing the support of $1.5 million in combined national and provincial funding for a high-performance trust fund at Saanich Commonwealth Place.

Commonwealth fund survives for next generation of Olympians

Politicians come through with $1.5 million for six years

Municipal and provincial politicians have rescued a nearly empty 1994 Commonwealth Games legacy trust dedicated to high-performance athletes in Saanich.

On Monday, the provincial and federal governments granted a combined $1.5 million to rejuvenate the ailing trust, which subsidizes rent for elite athletics groups at Saanich Commonwealth Place.

The original fund was nearly dry, falling seven years short of its 25 year termination date of 2019.

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard realized this and called upon two more fellow guardians, MLAs Ida Chong and MLA Murray Coell, who were part of the facility’s genesis with Leonard in 1993. At that time, Chong was a Saanich councillor with Leonard and Coell was mayor.

“In our 2011 and 12 budget meetings for Saanich, we saw that the fund was not going to have enough money to make 2019,” Leonard said. “It’s a problem most people weren’t aware of.”

Chong and Coell went to bat for the Commonwealth trust fund, scoring $750,000 from B.C. and another $750,000 from Own the Podium to fund the trust through 2019.

“It honours the agreement that was made with us, the Boardworks diving club, and our fellow user groups, the synchronized swimming, water polo and the swimming clubs, to train here with affordable rates,” said diving coach Tommy McLeod of Boardworks, the home of two-time Saanich Olympian Riley McCormick.

“It means we don’t have to find other ways to pay for pool time, which varies a lot across the country and our rates are among the best.”

The $1.5 million is the latest commitment to high performance athlete facilities in Greater Victoria, with University of Victoria’s upcoming Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities, upgrades to the Beaver-Elk Lake rowing centre, the Rugby Canada Centre for Excellence in Langford, and the Pacific Institute for Sports Excellence in Saanich.

“Back (when the Commonwealth fund was set up) everyone thought interest rates would be 18 and 19 per cent, not the three per cent interest the fund has been earning, which is why it’s drying up,” Leonard said.

“It would have meant an increase in property taxes, at a difficult time to do that, so I approached Murray Coell and Ida Chong.”

The mayor also recalled Gerald Berger, a federal negotiator at the time who saw the need for a legacy trust fund. Berger passed away in 1998, but is honoured on a plaque at Commonwealth pool.

“He was quite visionary, otherwise we would have had the event and the next day realized these athletes can’t afford to be here.”

Simon Whitfield and KidSport representatives were also at the announcement to unveil a new six-metre wide KidSport mural that honours Olympians who’ve trained at Commonwealth pool. The mural was designed by KidSport Victoria’s director Archie Louis, and focuses on the connection of child athletes with local Olympians.

“We want kids who are here to know Olympians train here just like they do,” said Whitfield, a two time Olympic medalist in triathlon who has swam at Commonwealth pool for 15 years.

Only a few athletes are honoured on the mural, Whitfield and swimmer Ryan Cochrane among them, but there’s room for more, Whitefield said.

“Rick Say was a three-time Olympian, captain of Canada’s Olympic swim team, and he swam as many metres in this pool more than anyone outside of Cochrane, and there’s no presence of him here, yet,” Whitfield continued.

“(Say) wanted to quit at one point. So if the kid who is 14 and thinking about quitting realizes they are in lane four, exactly where Rick Say swam, to know that Say went through tough days here, too, hopefully that kid can keep going and reap the health and well-being sport brings.”

sports@vicnews.com

 

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

West Shore RCMP is asking for the public’s help in locating Mackenzie Courchene, a Langford teenager.
MISSING: Mackenzie Courchene last seen in Langford on March 2

West Shore RCMP is asking for the public’s help in locating the Langford teenager

Rendering of the proposed Esquimalt public safety building. (Courtesy Township of Esquimalt)
Esquimalt blazes new trail toward modern public safety building

Township using alternative approval process for first time to gauge public support for proposal

Landmarks such as Howard the giant gnome at Galey's Farm in Saanich make a stunning backdrop for celebratory dance in the Greater Victoria Festival Society trailer for its coming Dance Victoria campaign. (Screeshot/Greater Victoria Festival Society)
Residents’ videos help campaign Dance Across Victoria

Celebratory dance clips to be compiled into Greater Victoria Festival Society video

Reynolds Secondary School’s spring musical Freaky Friday features Grace Fouracre as teen Ellie Blake (left) who swaps bodies with her overworked mother, Katherine, played by Nadia Lurie. (Photo courtesy Reynolds Secondary School)
Saanich high school goes virtual with Freaky Friday musical

Reynolds Secondary theatre program to livestream performances March 9-12

Saanich Fire Department. Black Press Media File Photo
Fire displaces three Saanich families from two homes

Saanich firefighters found the fire had spread to a neighbouring home upon arriving

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Most Read