A spokesperson for the group proposing to build a velodrome in Saanich says the group has had “very, very, very preliminary discussions” with the District of Saanich about building the facility at the current location of the municipality’s public works yard.
David Atwell with the Greater Victoria Velodrome Association characterized these discussions as nothing more than “batting around ideas,” which have not gone into any depth. This said, Atwell said the group has identified the public works yard near the corner of Quadra Street and McKenzie Avenue as one of two potential locations for the velodrome near that intersection.
“If that site [the public works yard] would be available, it would be an incredible location,” he said. “It is a site that is of great interest to us,” he added later.
Atwell made these comments as his group intensifies efforts to develop a feasibility study and business plan for the proposed facility, whose current cost estimates range betwen $90 million and $120 million.
While work on those files has been on-going, the next phase will formalize them, he said.
Funding for the feasibility study and business case would come from fundraising, as well matching gaming grants. Under the best possible scenario, the group could secure up to $500,00. But timelines appear tight: the application deadline for gaming grant is May 31, 2019.
Atwell said public interest in the project is strong and the group has already private donations, whose respective sources and amounts he declined to disclose.
A location near Uptown remains the preferred location of the group in Saanich, but it also identified potential locations near Tillicum Centre and University Heights Shopping, said Atwell. While Saanich remains the preferred location for the project per se, the group is also considering other municipalities in the Greater Victoria such as Victoria and Esquimalt, he said.
Looking at the public works location in more detail, aspects that would make it attractive include its proximity to a major regional intersection (which cyclists also heavily use); its proximity to Reynolds secondary school (the velodrome proposal includes a significant arts and culture element); its relative proximity to the University of Victoria with its athletic facilities, and the size of the actual lot. But the public works yard also bears risks.
A 2017 report investigating the state of major municipal facilities placed the facility at the top of a priority list for improvements, stating that the facility “warrants replacement.” Municipal plans are currently unclear, but several voices have already expressed concerns about the environmental state of the facility. According to the 2017 report, staff have been working at and out of the site for almost 60 years.
On the other hand, it does not take much effort to imagine a scenario whereby various partners take the lot off the municipality’s hands as part of a broader development agreement for the proposed velodrome, provided the municipality can find a better alternative for the public works yard and any remediation efforts do not break the bank.