Saanich will not host Canada’s national training centre for rowers like Caileigh Filmer and Hillary Janssens, 2018 world champions in the women’s coxless pair. The national training centre will instead go to North Cowichan. (Rowing Canada/Merijn Soeters)

North Cowichan will host new permanent rowing centre starting October 2020

Saanich’s bid for national rowing centre at Elk Lake sunk

A bid to bring Rowing Canada’s national training centre to Greater Victoria has failed, but another part of Vancouver Island is celebrating.

Rowing Canada Aviron (RCA) announced Wednesday that North Cowichan will host its future national training centre, with national team athletes training at Quamichan Lake.

Rowing Canada plans to establish a permanent national training centre in the area by October 2020.

The Greater Victoria municipality of Saanich was one of five communities that submitted formal proposals in September 2018, with a bid from the Victoria City Rowing Club (VCRC) making the shortlist.

RELATED: Blue-green algae blooms could sink bid to host national rowing centre in Saanich

“We are delighted to have found such a willing and supportive partner in North Cowichan,” said RCA Chief Executive Officer, Terry Dillon. “From our initial conversations, it was clear that they shared our vision for creating a home for our National Team programs. We look forward to working together in the coming months and years.”

Jennifer Walinga, who chaired the selection committee, said North Cowichan was the best fit when held up against the five performance criteria identified by coaches, athletes, alumni, technical experts and other members of the rowing community: year-round training availability; course length; lake size; priority access; and water quality.

“The biggest factor that Elk/Beaver Lake could not meet was priority access,” she said. “It’s a really busy lake,” she said. In other words, Saanich could not offer the kind of access necessary to avoid competing against other users.

A technical report had raised concerns about the ecological state of Elk/Beaver Lake thanks to the frequency of blue-green algae blooms. Walinga acknowledged this report, but said its ecological state was not the decisive factor against Saanich, she said. The chosen site has similiar issues that need to be addressed, she said. Other factors worked against Saanich, she said.

North Cowichan, meanwhile, is currently investing in water quality testing at Quamichan Lake by engaging a local biologist and researchers from the BC Institute of Technology to sample water in the Lake and develop recommendations for Council’s consideration. The Municipality is committed to supporting the health of Quamichan Lake and the people using it.

“North Cowichan is extremely pleased to be the new home for Rowing Canada Aviron,” said Mayor, Al Siebring. “We are a region of sport, recreation, and love of the outdoors. With its focus on health, sport, and excellence, Rowing Canada is exactly the partner that we want in our community. We know it will be a significant undertaking for Rowing Canada to build a new home, and our community will be with you on that journey.”

Local reactions to the announcement on the south Island expressed disappointment.

“We knew that Rowing Canada was looking for a permanent training location and of course were hoping that Elk Lake would be chosen,” said Saanich Coun. Susan Brice. “Saanich Council has sent a letter of support. Some of the technical requirements such as sanctioned course length were always a challenge, and it seems that the decision makers felt that they would have a better race training option at Cowichan. Hopefully there will continue to be some over-lap with in the two facilities.”

The decision appears as a temporary blow to attract sports-related economic activities, but Brice does not think so.

“Victoria will continue to provide year round training opportunities for Triathlon and other similar athletic endeavours,” she said. “Tourism Victoria continues to seek out opportunities for sports related events and training.”


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