Over the 30 years since incorporation, the City of Langford has worked hard to turn the community into a sporting hub not just for the region or for the province, but for the entire country.
Take a stroll down Langford Parkway and it quickly becomes clear the city has in many ways achieved that goal. On a 500-metre stretch of that road alone you can see some pretty exceptional sports facilities, most of which are part of City Centre Park.
You have the Westhills Arena, home to Pacific Coast Hockey Academy, Langford Lanes, Goudy Field, and of course Starlight Stadium, home to Pacific FC and the Westshore Rebels. Just behind the stadium you find the Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre.
Almost within sight of these facilities are the Island Training Centre and the Bear Mountain development, which features everything from a golf course used by Golf Canada, tennis courts used by Tennis Canada, and a mountain bike trail network which forms part of Cycling Canada’s main mountain bike training hub.
But it’s important to have more than just facilities. It’s also important to have the right people with a passion for bringing sports to their community, and Langford has that in spades.
“The guys went to talk to the City of Victoria about having the team there, and the city said they were interested, but not interested enough to upgrade the stadium or just make it a friendly environment to run a professional sports team in, so we went and talked to (former Langford mayor Stew Young) later that afternoon and the decision was made,” said Brad Norris-Jones, Pacific FC’s vice-president of operations, of how the team came to call Langford home in 2018. “You really need a community to embrace you, and Langford embraced PFC with open arms.”
Norris-Jones said having a professional stadium ready to go was also an important factor as such teams must also factor in revenue potential as at the end of the day they are a business like any other, and having a stadium that can accommodate enough fans and that will give fans a good experience is critical.
Of course, the right stadium is worth nothing if the fans are not there, and fortunately, Langford and all of Greater Victoria came through on that front as well.
“We have had great growth from the beginning. We are looking at the fastest-growing community in Canada filled with young fans,” said Norris-Jones. “And to be clear, our fan base is not just Langford. It is Greater Victoria and the Island, but being in a neighbourhood where families can walk to a game or bike to a game is very important for us.”
That passionate sporting community also played a major role in Cycling Canada’s decision to make Langford their main winter training hub, especially when it came to mountain biking.
“At the beginning, it was all because of the local mountain biking community,” said Cycling Canada head coach Dan Proulx, noting most of the trails his athletes train on were built by local clubs and riders. In 2013, the team started making their presence in Langford more official, entering into a partnership with Bear Mountain developers Ecoasis Developments and the city.
“They came to us asking what we needed for support, and we started talking about trail access and meeting spaces and places to hold training camps, and they were a pretty incredible supporter right from the get-go, and then they brought along the City of Langford.”
That hospitality combined with the region’s mild year-round cycling weather proved to be a combination so perfect, Proulx said many of the athletes decided to move to Greater Victoria so they would be able to take advantage of it all year-round and on their own time.
Cycling Canada is now working to grow its presence in the city even further, investing in a new clubhouse at the Jordie Lunn Bike Park which among other things will house offices for the team. But Proulx said the main investment the team has made has been in supporting the riders themselves, whether they are amateurs, novice athletes, or established pros.
“It’s such a hotbed for cycling. There are so many clubs and athletes, and even events. It really is a powerhouse in Canadian cycling. The entire community is a leader in that respect.”