A senior lacrosse figure on the Saanich Peninsula says funding for a new facility at Centennial Park promises to transform the sport.
“This new facility will completely transform the sport of lacrosse on the Saanich Peninsula,” said Phil DiBattista, President of the Peninsula Warriors Lacrosse Association. “We are over the moon, we are over the moon to get the scholarship.”
His comments follow the announcement that Central Saanich will receive just over $2 million in funding for the park’s new multi-sport box.
“We are very grateful for their support and for taking this opportunity,” said DiBattista.
According to the municipality, the money for the project should come 40 percent from the federal government, 33 percent from the state and the rest from municipal reserves.
The new facility will be built on the site of the existing 40-year-old lacrosse box and the project will also include walkways from the nearby lawn bowling alley and Wallace Drive.
The facility will house the Peninsula Warriors Lacrosse Association. Other sports and fitness programs are also conducted from the 17,000 square foot facility.
The roof and lighting will improve year-round, all-weather access to outdoor recreation for Central Saanich and the region.
The preliminary work for the project will start this spring, the detailed planning and cost calculation at the end of 2022 and the start of construction in 2023.
The local announcement comes amid a period of growth for lacrosse, Canada’s national sport.
It’s booming as a college sport in the US, and the National Lacrosse League recently expanded to Las Vegas – the team’s owners include Canadian basketball icon Steve Nash and global ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, who often credits lacrosse for his successful ice hockey career.
“I’m very excited about the growth of the sport,” said DiBattista.
This growth is also taking place on the peninsula, which is already known as a purveyor of up-and-coming talent. Six of the association’s under-16 graduates were drafted by BC Jr. A Lacrosse League teams.
The imminent arrival of a new facility not only underscores the long-standing local support for lacrosse, but promises to find resonance in other areas, including First Nations and non-First Nations relations. According to DiBattista, up to 36 percent of registered club members have an Indigenous background, and talks have already been held with the Tsawout First Nation to form an Indigenous junior lacrosse league.
The lack of a covered facility hampered pre-season preparations between January and March, and DiBattista notes that association teams have traveled to Langford for 10 or 12 years of indoor rink access. While this has partially discouraged parents from registering their children, the new facility will help the federation attract new players, he added.
The covered facility will increase flexibility for training sessions. While the club had previously purchased lighting to make better use of the existing facility, it was not appropriate, DiBattista said. “Even that only allows us to work on a third of the floor and when it rains it’s too dangerous for the athletes to play.”
While the loss of space at the Panorama Recreation Center has contributed to a significant drop in registrations in recent years, registration requests have risen to the point that the federation has had to turn players away due to a lack of facilities.
The covered facility will allow older age groups to play outdoors, which ultimately means more teams and more games, DiBattista said.
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