The Victoria High Alumni Association has abandoned the plan for an eight-lane track at the school and is welcoming the alternative two-lane walking track due to the high price tag attached.
The issue was brought forward after a group of alumni, separate from the Alumni Association, who call themselves Friends of Vic High (FOVH) asked for a public inquiry into Memorial Stadium Revitalization Project (MSRP), which they said was “significantly changed without full disclosure to the public.”
The MSRP, spearheaded by the Vic High Alumni Association (VHAA) 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.
More than $500,000 has been raised for the project, which is now estimated to cost $7 million, including $165,000 from the Alumni Association, $100,000 from the Bays United Football Club and $250,000 from the City of Victoria.
The 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.
Donna Lomas, board chair for the VHAA, said the reality is that while the VHAA continues to pursue the original fundraising goal – it is unlikely to be met. Lomas added that the schematic drawings of the proposed field renovations that show two-lane track that FOVH has said is “barley wider than a city sidewalk,” were “well-received” by the VHAA, adding that the they will continue to pursue an artificial turf field.
Lisa McPhail, a spokesperson for the Greater Victoria School District, said the project has gone through “extensive consultation from start to finish,” which began in 2018 with consultation on the seismic options. According to McPhail, last fall there was another consultation process around the disposal of land which would result in additional funding for the school’s seismic project, leaving SD61 with $1.5 to $1.9 million to fund additional amenities.
Consultation proceeded on how best to use the additional funding, which found that the community wanted these funds to be focused on an astronomy deck, fitness-health classroom enhancements, along with upgrading the memorial stadium.
McPhail said the expansion of the track was not recommended or passed by the school board due to the high cost, which was estimated to be approximately $7 million. As per board policy on property disposal, the easement was not included in the public presentation.
|A screen shot taken on Oct. 22 of the Victoria High Alumni Association showing the continued promotion of an eight-lane track. (Victoria High Alumni Association website)|
The FOVH point to the fact that as of Oct. 22, the VHAA continues to promote the eight-lane track on its website as proof that the decision was made behind closed doors. According to Stephen Dorsey, a spokesperson for FOVH, any association that raises funds through donations from the public has a “fiduciary obligation” to disclose changes.
“It’s like if they raised money for a new school bus and then without disclosure, went ahead and bought a Mini Cooper. It’s just not done,” he said.
“Why would they not disclose this publicly … so that all parties could chime in? And some who donated would have had the opportunity to make a decision to ask for their donation to be returned, as the new plans did not deliver to the visions they were supporting.”