Langford pulls Q Centre arena subsidy from Colwood, Highlands

Langford is pulling out of a funding arrangement for the Q Centre arena, a move that came as a surprise to councillors in Colwood and Highlands.

The rapidly growing Langford has helped Colwood and Highlands pay their debt-servicing costs for the arena since 2003, a total $986,508 over nine years.

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But Langford Mayor Stew Young said that instead of subsidizing the arena, which is in Colwood, Langford could put its money to better use in its own municipality.

“Langford believes recreation is really important to residents and to the health of a community, so we want to build more recreation centres in Langford,” Young said. “But we’re still subsidizing what’s happening in other areas, which I think is sort of wrong.”

In 2003, Langford council approved an annual payment of $96,440 to Colwood and $13,172 to Highlands to cover their debt-servicing costs for what was then called Bear Mountain Arena. The payments, which came from the city’s casino revenue, were to continue for 20 years, beginning in 2004.

On Monday, council voted to discontinue the payments.

Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton said she was blindsided by the decision, as were city staff.

“What does that say, to do it without notice, to do it without consultation, to do it without concern about the impact?” Hamilton said. “Because there is definitely an impact, we just have to determine what it is.”

She could not say how much is outstanding, in terms of overall payments, or what proportion each municipality was on the hook for. She said staff are reviewing the matter.

They will also review whether it was within Langford’s power to withdraw, Hamilton said.

Highlands Mayor Ken Williams said he was given no notice of the decision. He declined to comment further until staff reviewed the arrangement.

Because the agreement was a council resolution, rather than a formal contract, council has always had the power to stop paying, said Coun. Lanny Seaton, who chairs Langford’s parks and recreation committee and is a representative to the West Shore Parks and Recreation Society.

“We just felt we needed the money for what we’re doing in Langford,” Seaton said. Langford has spent about $30 million developing recreation centres within the municipality the past five or six years, he said.

The efficiency and speed with which those projects went ahead stands in stark contrast to the collaborative effort to get the Q Centre built, Young said. Langford was keen to see the centre built, but it took years to break ground.

“Whenever we wanted to build some capital projects down there, it was always impossible,” he said.

“You can see what we’ve done in five or six years, just by going on our own.”

Rob Martin, chairman of the West Shore Parks and Recreation Society, said Langford’s decision won’t affect the arena.

“This has no affect whatsoever on the Q arena. This is a funding issue between the owners,” Martin said. “Langford has already expressed to me that they are very supportive of West Shore Parks and Recreation.”

asmart@timescolonist.com

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