First strides toward Vic High’s stadium reno

A $7-million fundraising effort to renovate Victoria High School’s Memorial Stadium has reached $500,000.

Keith McCallion said the $500,000 includes $150,000 from alumni members, $100,000 from the Bays United Football Club and the promise of a $250,000 matching grant from the City of Victoria. McCallion is a former Vic High principal and member of the school’s alumni association.

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“The city said they would match anything the alumni association raised to a quarter of a million dollars,” he said.

McCallion said that fundraising has been going on for about four years.

“The $500,000 is just the first step, really,” he said.

Vic High principal Aaron Parker said the alumni’s efforts are “impressive.”

The stadium — the first high-school stadium in B.C. — was built to honour Vic High students who died in the Second World War. The stadium structure was completed in 1949, followed by the track in 1951. The vision is to revamp the facility into a state-of-the-art multi-sport complex, including a lighted all-weather field — that both the school and Bays United teams would use — a fieldhouse and new eight-lane track.

The project would proceed in four stages, with the all-weather field part of the initial stage. Next would come the fieldhouse, the track and substantial upgrades to stadium seating.

The original stadium cost $20,000, with the track estimated at $6,600. Supporting the track were the likes of the Victoria Gyro Club with $4,600 and the Victoria school board with $1,000, while students and staff worked together to collect money for the stadium.

A core group of alumni keeps the current project moving ahead, McCallion said.

“Our regular alumni association meets once a month and there’s probably 25 of us around the table.”

Two of the donations through the alumni association were for $10,000, McCallion said, including a donation from the family of the late Lois and Lawrie Wallace. Lawrie Wallace hatched the idea for the original stadium while teaching at Vic High in the 1940s.

Former teacher Tommy Mayne, who is a 1935 Vic High graduate, has also given $10,000.

The facility will do much more than benefit Vic High, McCallion said. “It will be a huge asset, actually, to the whole school district and region.”

The economics of the project also make sense, McCallion said.

“Once this fully comes to fruition, it should save the school district money. You’re not going to have to rent Centennial Stadium, you’re not going to have to rent Royal Athletic Park.

“We’re going to be able to, we hope, hold everything from elementary-school track meets right up to B.C. championships in this facility.”

School district officials see the stadium project being established in concert with a needed seismic upgrade at Vic High, secretary-treasurer Mark Walsh said.

He said they are especially supportive of the proposed field.

“We want to make sure that whatever happens coincides with the return of kids to Vic High after the seismic work,” he said, adding that the plan is to relocate the school to the S.J. Willis Education Centre while the work is going on.

The district had been anticipating the seismic effort could start at the beginning of January 2019, “but given the complexity of the project it’s still in the planning stages,” Walsh said.

Walsh said the parameters for the seismic project have not been set.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

• To donate to the stadium initiative, go to the alumni website at vichigh.com

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