Vic High Alumni Association members Keith McCallion, left, and Roger Skillings, along with principal Aaron Parker, hope to see the Memorial Stadium track, infield and other facilities take on a gleaming new light in future years. The area is the subject of an estimated $7 million phased project that would see it used by the community as well as the school. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

Victoria High turf field/track project hits important funding milestone

Alumni Association members guiding initiative that also includes lighting, new fieldhouse

Gaining momentum in sports games and major projects can be critical to attaining success.

For the team behind the push to create a new estimated $7-million athletic facility at Victoria High School, recent developments have marked a turning point in efforts to see a new turf field, lighting, modern-distance track, upgraded seating and a fieldhouse built on the site of the existing Memorial Stadium.

The $250,000 mark has been reached in fundraising involving the Vic High Alumni Association and Bays United Soccer Club. That has triggered matching funding of $250,000 from the City of Victoria and has the project seriously kicking into gear, said Keith McCallion, the former Vic High principal who has been spearheading the initiative with alum Roger Skillings.

“We know this project is going to go now, we know it’s going to happen and that is exciting,” McCallion said, after presenting an update this week to the Greater Victoria School District’s operations policy and planning committee.

Added Skillings: “We’re very pleased with what we believe the future is going to be bringing.”

Both men gave kudos to Victoria Coun. Marianne Alto, city council’s Fernwood neighbourhood liaison, for shepherding the project through the municipal arena and helping secure the funding match.

There were certainly some lean times in the past seven or eight years, McCallion said, when he and Skillings had doubts the project would ever come to fruition.

But perseverance and single-minded purpose by them and others helped the campaign reach the recent milestone.

The track and infield, while still used by the school’s sports teams and phys-ed department, were targeted as needing updating some years ago by members of the alumni group. McCallion, who was principal from 1989-94; and Skillings, a former alumni board chair and experienced executive with sports organizations in the region, got behind the project and began banging the fundraising drum to alumni and anyone else who would listen.

Roughly $150,000 has come from individual donations by alumni and others, while $100,000 is being contributed by Bays United, which would be the primary community user of the turf field, especially at night and weekends.

A recent upswing in athletics at the school has underscored the need for updated facilities, McCallion said. Building a new 400-metre track – the existing cinderblock track, completed in 1951, remains in yards – would allow regional and higher-level meets to be held, he added.

In combination with the turf field, it could save the school district money through less rental of such venues as UVic’s Centennial Stadium and Royal Athletic Park, he said.

Phase 1 would include the turf field and lighting, with subsequent phases being the track, then the fieldhouse. While the new track will require a larger footprint than the existing one, the site of the school’s former F.T. Fairey technical building would house the additional parking.

Current Vic High principal Aaron Parker, who admitted he may or may not still be at the school when the project is completed, is thrilled with the developments.

“I think it’s exciting and a little bit unusual for an alumni group to raise that much community capital for a project like this,” he said. “That’s a remarkable achievement and speaks to our community and our alumni’s dedication to it.”

Efforts will soon get underway to secure the much-needed provincial funding for the project, which could well tie in with seismic upgrading at Vic High.

If the field/track project is approved, the Greater Victoria School District would manage it.

editor@vicnews.com

 

Preliminary drawing for the Victoria High School turf field, track and fieldhouse project also shows new lighting and an upgraded seating area. Courtesy of Greater Victoria School District

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