A senior lacrosse figure on the Saanich Peninsula said funding for a new facility at Centennial Park promises to change the sport.
“This new facility will completely change the sport of lacrosse on the Saanich Peninsula,” said Phil DiBattista, president of the Peninsula Warriors Lacrosse Association. “We’re so excited, we’re so excited to get the grant money.”
His comments followed the announcement that Central Saanich would receive more than $2 million in funding for the park’s new multi-sport box.
“We are very grateful for their support and they took the opportunity,” said DiBattista.
According to the city government, 40 percent of the money for the project will come from the federal government, 33 percent from the provinces and the rest from city reserves.
The new facility will be built on the site of an existing 40 year old lacrosse box and the project will also include walkways from a nearby lawn bowling facility and from Wallace Drive.
The facility will be home to the Peninsula Warriors Lacrosse Association. Other exercise and fitness programs will also operate in the 17,000-square-foot facility.
The roof and lighting will improve year-round, all-weather access to outdoor recreational activities for Central Saanich and the region.
Preliminary work on the project will begin this spring, with detailed design and costs by late 2022 and construction commencing in 2023.
The local announcement comes amid a period of growth for lacrosse, Canada’s national sport.
It’s soaring as a collegiate sport in the US, and the National Lacrosse League has recently expanded to Las Vegas – team owners including Canadian basketball icon Steve Nash and global hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, who often credits lacrosse for his successful hockey career.
“I’m very, very excited for the growth of this sport,” said DiBattista.
That growth is also happening on Peninsula, which is already on the map as a supplier of young talent. Six of the U-16 players’ association that passed were recruited by the BC Jr. team. A Lacrosse League.
The delayed arrival of the new facility not only underscores longstanding support locally for lacrosse, but promises to resonate in other areas, including relations between First Nations and non-First Nations. According to DiBattista, up to 36 percent of registered association members have an Indigenous background, and discussions with Tsawout First Nation about launching an Indigenous Junior Lacrosse league are already underway.
The lack of covered facilities has hampered pre-season preparations between January and March, and DiBattista noted association teams have been traveling to Langford to access the indoor arena for 10 or 12 years. While this has, in part, discouraged parents from registering their children, the new facility will help the association attract new players, he added.
Covered facilities will add flexibility to training sessions. While the association previously purchased lighting to get more use out of existing facilities, it was inadequate, DiBattista said. “In fact it only allows us to work on a third of the floor and if it rains, it’s too dangerous for the athletes to play.”
While the loss of space at the Panorama Recreation Center contributed to a significant decline in registrations in recent years, requests for registration have increased to the point where the association has had to turn away players, due to a lack of facilities.
Closed facilities will allow older age groups to play outdoors, which will ultimately mean more teams and more games, DiBattista said.
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