The 400-metre, all-weather running track at the Pacific Institute of Sports Excellence passed its first test on Tuesday, the drainage test.
A river of fresh rain ran through, and off, the new $1.2 million track.
The rain also covered a score of dignitaries that included Michele Stilwell, a six-time Paralympic gold medalist and B.C.’s minister of social development and social innovation.
“This project is close to my heart,” Stilwell said. “This amazing centre will help make dreams come true.”
Stilwell joined a group of local school children in a ceremonial lap around the world-class course.
Construction on the track started in 2015 and it was officially completed by August. Some of the 2016 Rio Paralympians, including the wheelchair rugby team, were able to use the track before heading to the Olympics.
Peter Eriksson gushed over the track on Tuesday. As the head coach for Athletics Canada, a key tenant for the track, Eriksson’s only lament was he forgot his track spikes to test it out himself.
Athletics Canada was well consulted throughout the track building process. PISE has committed to providing as many services as possible as Athletics Canada’s ‘Western Hub.’
“We’re grateful to have priority track access and have a say on the design,” said Western Hub coach Heather Hennigar. “This completes a one-stop shop, a full complement of amenities to work out, to train, to have service providers, hydrotherapy, clinicians and more.”
Western Hub athletes are not mandated to train at PISE all the time. Many live elsewhere and train with a coach of their choosing, but are expected to check in regularly with Hennigar. And that’s where the track helps.
“[Because] our athletes are not all here, they have the ability to come here to plug into the system,” Hennigar said. “They can put in a training block, get blood work done, and get what they need. We need that venue to train when they are here so this is significant.”
One of PISE’s other tenants, the Canadian Sports Institute Pacific, offers the high-performance monitoring that helps Own the Podium athletes get ahead. The high-performance tenants at PISE have piled up with Rugby Canada’s women’s program, Rowing Canada and Camosun College’s athletics among the regular users at the seven-year-old Interurban facility.
There’s more to come, said Rob Bettauer, CEO of PISE.
“We’d love to add a jumps area, as Athletics Canada has indicated a desire to add a throws and jumps area to the Western Hub, with the jumps at PISE,” he said. “We also have the ability to add stadium seating along the retaining wall to hold spectator events.”
The jumps area would need minimal infrastructure, and would likely go on the south side of the track where the lanes are designated with 100m sprint lines. There is room to create storage there for the equipment. Currently, a group of Athletics Canada throwers train between Lambrick Park secondary, where there is a throwing cage, and the high-performance offerings of PISE.
Bettauer said PISE may also make new accommodations for Camosun, should it add a soccer program down the road, for which there is interest.
For now Rugby Canada, the Lower Island Soccer Association (for youth) and Lower Island Women’s Soccer Association are regular users of the all-weather turf inside the track.
The circle track is not the only feature of the completed project, which boasts a unique incline track. The Peninsula Co-op-sponsored incline doubles as a wheelchair accessible ramp from PISE down to the main track and is painted bright blue. PISE is looking to become a designated National Paralympic Training Centre too.
There’s also a new Victoria KidSport KidZone next to the PISE gymnasium, to promote fundamental movement skills and physical literacy in youth.
Funding for the track project came from several sources, with major contributions from the province ($250,000), PacificSport Victoria, and through corporate and individual donations. Western Economic Diversification Canada provided $154,000 from the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure program to add railings, seating and landscaping around the track.
Camosun owns the PISE building and land, with about 50 more years left on the lease. The community is also welcome to use the track when it’s not in designated use by tenants.