Focus on existing facilities, says consultant plan for West Shore rec

A long-term consultant plan recommends replacing the Juan de Fuca velodrome with a turf field and reducing the number of lawn bowling fields at West Shore Parks and Recreation.

A long-term consultant plan recommends replacing the Juan de Fuca velodrome with a turf field and reducing the number of lawn bowling fields at West Shore Parks and Recreation.

A draft study by Professional Environmental Recreation Consultants lays out a long list of priorities for the facility, such as fixing up the pool and lacrosse box, and better marketing for the par 3 golf course.

In the short term, it recommends leasing the velodrome to the Greater Victoria Velodrome Society for five years, extending the one year lease granted recently.

In the long term, about a decade, the report recommends redeveloping the 333-metre cycling track to make way for an artificial turf field. In the same time frame it says two of the four lawn bowling fields should be deemed surplus — possibly to add a second ice sheet to Bear Mountain arena.

Brian Johnston, a principal of Professional Environmental Recreation Consultants, stressed that new buildings and major structural changes are a long way down the road and subject to the approval by West Shore owner municipalities.

In the short term, the recommendations focus on improving and maintaining existing facilities.

“Protecting what they have is the highest priority,” he said. “The most important aspect is investing in existing capacity.”

The two turf fields Langford built at City Centre Park has eased pressure on the need for more field space on the West Shore, but Johnston suspects that won’t last forever. The report suggests migrating one existing grass field at WSPR to artificial turf and eventually redeveloping the velodrome space too.

The number of potential field users — such as soccer or baseball players — far exceeds the number of track cyclists, Johnston said, making the velodrome “surplus to the long term needs” of WSPR.

“We could be proven wrong if cyclists develop programs,” he said. “It’s not an urgent decision. Some use (of the velodrome) is better than none.”

Building another ice sheet over top lawn bowling fields also seems unlikely in the short or long term. WSPR society board chair Les Bjola said the new ice sheet in Langford should ease pressure for ice time.

Parks and rec also plans to repair the cracked foundation under the JDF ice rink in 2012, a million dollar project that has money set aside.

“When Langford opens its one ice sheet, we’ll go from not enough ice to a lot of ice,” Bjola said. “We need to see how that gets absorbed.”

If there comes a time when the rec centre is looking for more ice space, Davie Mathie, president of the Juan de Fuca Lawn Bowling Club, said his members are ready to “fight for every inch” of lawn bowling green at WSPR.

A 1994 Commonwealth Games legacy facility, similar to the velodrome, “it’s the only four-green facility in the province,” Mathie said. “There’s only two like this in Canada.”

“It’s not the first time this has happened,” he said. “Taking away greens is always in the rumour mill, they’ve talked before about putting in another ice rink.”

Bjola noted that critically, the capital plan has upheld the direction the rec centre is already heading — that maintenance of existing assets should take top priority.

“It confirms we need to maintain existing facilities with more than Band-Aids. The report confirms we need to spend good money on high-level maintenance,” Bjola said.

The recommendation for replacing the velodrome with a turf field echoes a plan floated three years ago by the WSPR board to make room for burgeoning numbers of soccer players.

In response, both the Greater Victoria Velodrome Association and a consortium of sporting organizations launched lawsuits against WSPR and its owner municipalities to preserve the site. The fate of the velodrome also caused a deep rift among the municipal owners group.

The current WSPR board of directors has yet to review or comment on the draft capital plan, and Johnston said it is open to revision.

Bjola said he is concerned the velodrome issue could hold back passage of the capital plan, which is the cornerstone of a 20-year strategic plan for the rec centre.

Bjola agrees with the report, that there are better recreation uses for the velodrome site, but disagreement among municipal owners is likely to “complicate things.”

“I’m really thankful the majority of stuff in the capital plan is maintenance,” Bjola remarked.