Cowichan Sportsplex hopes construction can begin in new year

By Robert Barron, Cowichan Valley Citizen | September 11, 2019

The dream of a new field house at the Cowichan Sportsplex is a big step closer to reality with senior levels of government kicking in $1 million for the approximately $1.5-million facility.

The construction of a field house at the Cowichan Sportsplex was part of the original plans for the sports centre when it was first built about 15 years ago, but the plan is just now coming to fruition.

Drew Cooper is the general manager of the non-profit PacificSport Vancouver Island group that formed a partnership last year with the Chesterfield Sports Society, which handles the administration of the Sportsplex, to run the day-to-day operations at the facility.

He said the construction of the new field house will be a “real game changer” for the Sportsplex.

“With change rooms and other amenities for the first time, we will be able to attract tournaments and other events from outside the community,” he said.

“There might also be interesting opportunities to form partnerships with Rowing Canada (which is establishing a permanent national training centre at Quamichan Lake) that might need field space for training.”

Six recreation centres across B.C., including the Cowichan Sportsplex, are set to receive more than $3 million in upgrades and new construction through the federal government’s Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, as well as provincial and municipal funding, the province announced on Sept. 9.

The Cowichan Sportsplex is a regional outdoor sports, fitness and recreation park covering more than 26 acres in the Cowichan Valley, and currently sees more than 200,000 visits each year.

The new field house will replace aging office space, which is being provided by a temporary and cramped portable building, and washrooms, as well as providing new change rooms/showers and a multi-purpose meeting room for the first time.

It’s anticipated that the field house will lead to the expansion of existing programs at the Sportsplex, and inaugurate new ones.

Cooper said approximately $400,000 of the remaining $500,000 for the project has already been raised since last year through fundraisers and funding from local governments like North Cowichan, with the balance expected to come from a capital contingency fund.

He said while there have yet to be shovels in the ground, work has already begun on the conceptual drawings and the schematics for the layout of the building.

“Construction could begin as early as the spring of 2020, and I guess it could take from about eight months to a year to complete once we start,” Cooper said.

“According to the rules for the funding from the governments, the field house has to be in place within six years or we have to give the funding back. That’s not going to happen.”

The other five community centres that are set to receive upgrades include facilities in the West Shore, Tsawwassen First Nation, Sumas First Nation, T’exelcemc and Lake Country.

“Culture and recreation centres are the backbone of our communities and important focal points for activities that bring people together and help them thrive and grow,” said Carla Qualtrough, the federal minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility.

By Robert Barron, Cowichan Valley Citizen