A group of Victoria High alumni is asking for a full public inquiry into the Memorial Stadium Revitalization Project (MSRP), that they say was “significantly changed without full disclosure to the public.”
The MSRP, spearheaded by the Vic High Alumni Association in 2012, was estimated to cost $6 million for lights, an all-weather playing field that would replace the grass field, along with an eight-lane 400-metre track that would replace the 400-yard track, a field house and new bleachers.
The alumni association raised $600,000 for the project and $250,000 came from the City of Victoria.
Now, the group, called Friends of Vic High (FOVH), says those plans can’t be fulfilled.
Esther Callo, co-founder of FOVH, obtained documents through a Freedom of Information request that shows an eight-metre easement – to make way for a housing development – that spans 192 metres across the grounds and makes the promised eight-lane track impossible.
Callo and the FOVH want to see “promised made, be promises kept.”
During a virtual press conference on Tuesday, Callo said the easement was “completely withheld from the public.”
“The public was never consulted and never given an opportunity to engage with these plans to the detriment of the students,” she said, adding that the new two-lane track is “barely wider than a city sidewalk.”
A spokesperson for SD61 clarified the entire project has gone through extensive public consultation, starting in 2018 with seismic options. Another consultation process last fall resulted in a visioning group which worked with the community for feedback on how additional funding from land disposition should be allocated. It was recommended these funds be focused on an astronomy deck, fitness-health classroom enhancements and upgrading the memorial stadium.
The expansion of the track was not recommended or passed by the school board due to the high cost. According to a previous release, the envisioned eight-lane track would coast approximately $7 million.
Moe Elewonibi, a former NFL and CFL football player and Superbowl champion who moved back to the Island recently, spoke at Tuesday’s press conference. He said the school where he and his mother both graduated from was a formative part in his athletic career.
“As an athlete, looking backward at the places that fostered me, Vic High was one of those places,” he said, adding that he hoped adding his voice to the cause would help hold the institutions involved accountable.
Tak Niketas, a member of the FOVH, who graduated from the school in 1983 and has coached various sports there since then, said he was shocked to see that “over the past 30 years, nothing has changed at Vic High.”
Niketas, along with other members of the FOVH, spoke about how difficult it was for athletes in the school to get new uniforms and jerseys to replace old ones. He started noticing other schools that had better equipment and facilities, which is what “upset” him the most throughout his volunteer career.