Vic High alumni call for larger stadium track

Friends of Vic High are ­lending their voices to the call for an eight-lane track inside the ­stadium at the Fernwood school, saying it would enhance the ­athletic experience for students.

Fundaising had been underway for a $7-million refurbishment of the stadium with an eight-lane track, but current plans for the site call for a two-lane walking track.

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The group, made up of alumni and community supporters, held a press conference Tuesday to press their case. Speakers included 1971 graduate and former Canadian National Rugby Team captain Hans de Goede, and 2016 graduate and University of Victoria rower Eden Hardcastle.

Moe Elewonibi, a 1984 graduate and former NFL player, said the stadium means a lot to him.

“It was a place where I played soccer, it was a place where I played rugby, it was a place where I refereed,” he said. “It laid the groundwork for me for the future.”

He said “skimping” on the stadium project with a smaller track isn’t the way to go.

The Vic High Alumni Association had raised about $600,000 to go along with $100,000 from the Bays United Football Club and an anticipated $250,000 matching grant from the City of Victoria.

Greater Victoria School ­District secretary-treasurer Kim Morris has said that the cost and scope of the project meant it could not proceed.

“I think given the scope of the project and the fundraising that had to be done, it wasn’t viable to continue to plan for it,” ­Morris said.

Vic High is currently undergoing a $79.7-million seismic refit and expansion, and supporters of the stadium project envision it going ahead alongside the revitalized school.

The school district did not recommend the full track or a turf field inside the stadium when plans for the school were unveiled in the spring, citing the cost and concerns about environmental impact.

Part of the overall effort has been a deal involving the school district, the city, the Capital Region Housing Association and B.C. Housing that will see affordable housing built adjacent to the stadium.

While space is needed for greenways and other ­considerations for the housing development, Morris said the housing is not what led to the decision to go with a smaller track.

Friends of Vic High member Esther Callo countered that the housing has indeed affected the track and reduced the available amenities. She said the two lanes now proposed are “barely wider than a public city sidewalk.”

She said there should have been more information given to the public along the way.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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