National team scrum half Phil Mack

Velox headed west, it’s official

Forty-five year old rugby club leaving Saanich for 2015

With Velox Rugby Club’s move to the West Shore now official, the organization can take solace in the fact that they will soon have one of the best, instead of the worst, rugby pitches in town.

West Shore Parks and Recreation made Velox’s long-rumoured move to the West Shore official on Tuesday morning, as the two have an agreement in place to house Velox permanently in the Juan de Fuca clubhouse starting in September 2015. Velox will install rugby posts on the Juan de Fuca grass pitch, making it an exclusively rugby field. And Velox will turf the interior, vacant area of the Westshore Velodrome.

It means this is the last summer Velox volunteers will complete the annual summer ritual of seeding and watering the grass-challenged Gordon Head rugby turf in hopes of restoring it by September. Its hard surface has long been the subject of sideline mockery by visiting teams.

“You know, it’s funny, you become attached to things like (that pitch),” said longtime Velox member and former Canadian rugby international team player Mark Wyatt, who was part of a core of UVic Vikes to join Velox in the late 1980s. “There was so much time and effort put into that pitch and to the clubhouse, countless hours from so many members, and it will be a difficult transition emotionally, but also a time to move forward.”

Velox has successful mini and youth rugby programs, and one of only two premier women’s sides in Greater Victoria.

The bulk of Velox’s programs will play one more year in Gordon Head, though the organization has great numbers in place with the satellite youth programs it started on the West Shore two years ago.

Velox officials never confirmed the rumours about leaving Saanich, though the writing was on the wall as its lease with the University of Victoria ends after the 2014-15 season.

“Rugby is a loyal game; we’ll retain our players who are wed to the club, and we’ll gain others,” Wyatt said.

Facility rentals at Gordon Head, which are still available through Velox this season, have been helpful financially, but are too few and far between.

“Running the Gordon Head facility long-term just isn’t sustainable for the club. There aren’t many organizations who do it that way,” Wyatt said. “We wanted certainty going ahead so we started looking at every possibility on the South Island, and Colwood really came forward.”

At Juan de Fuca, Velox will have new dressing rooms and the use of the main floor of the pavilion that overlooks the Juan de Fuca Golf Course, where they can hang photos of the club’s history.

“It’s hugely beneficial for the club, first-class facilities and Colwood will end up with a brand new artificial turf (in the velodrome),” Wyatt said.

The dimensions inside the velodrome are too small for a full-sized rugby field, but will provide an additional all-weather practice surface.

In it’s 45-year history Velox’s top men’s side has been in and out of the B.C. premier division. By tapping into the growing pipeline of Western Communities rugby players, and moving just 10 minutes down the road from Rugby Canada’s Langford facility, Velox hopes they can soon return to the CDI Premier League, while continuing to challenge for the top women’s trophy in B.C.

reporter@saanichnews.com

 

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