Picture is of Rugby Canada CEO Graham Brown, general manager Mike Chu, Langford Mayor Stew Young and International Rugby Board council member John Jeffrey took part in the groundbreaking Monday for the new facility in Langford
Canada CEO Graham Brown still remembers the “gravel road” he travelled up a few years ago to what is now Westhills Stadium to meet for the first time Langford Mayor Stew Young. That track is now Glen Lake Road and it leads to the Rugby Canada Centre of Excellence.
Ground was broken Monday for the latest addition to the centre, a 20,000-square-foot facility immediately behind Westhills Stadium and across from the previously completed Rugby Canada offices.
The new world-class facility will feature a high-performance gym for training and testing, locker-rooms, medical area, hydro therapy suite, video analysis suite, players study lounge/cafeteria and kitchen, equipment storage and six residential apartment units for short-term athlete accommodation. Construction time frame is estimated between 12 to 18 months.
“Victoria is a great place for our national team athletes because so many Olympic athletes in other sports train here, too,” said Brown.
“This addition is not the Taj Mahal. But it is ultra-functional, allowing for rugby training, rehab and development in one place. We will have our locker-rooms right next to our hydro therapy and video analysis, which in turn is right next to our training fields [Westhills Stadium and Goudy Field].”
The new building and fittings, which Brown estimates will cost between $4 million and $5 million, is a partnership between Langford and Rugby Canada, the latter which has embarked on a capital fundraising campaign with a goal of $3.5 million. Young estimated Langford will contribute between $2 million to $3 million, including land and in-kind, to be recouped over 20 years from Rugby Canada.
The gym part will also be accessible to the public.
“The No. 1 thing we do in Langford is provide recreation and activities,” said the mayor.
“We have the weather, land base and residents and council that are enthusiastic about it. We want sports and sports tourism here.”
Case in point is the International Rugby Board Americas Championship tournament beginning this week at Westhills Stadium featuring Canada, Argentina, Uruguay and the United States.
Westhills Stadium and the rugby centre sit next to the adjacent Goudy Field, an ice arena, dryland arena and bowling alley — all recently built. And Young said he isn’t done yet, planning on three more artificial-turf fields and another arena. He envisions attracting more national teams to set up training headquarters in Langford in the years ahead, potentially targeting Soccer Canada and Tennis Canada, although he said those dreams are in their “infancy.”
In rugby, Langford has teamed with a sport on the rise.
“Inclusion in the Olympics [sevens makes its Summer Games debut at Rio 2016] has moved rugby to front of mind,” said Brown, also noting the huge inroads made by women’s rugby.
“Rugby long passed football in being played in more Canadian schools and is well past ice hockey in that regard. We [men’s national team] sold-out BMO Field [in Toronto] for our Test match against Ireland over the summer and we are well ahead of that pace in selling out our game against the New Zealand Maori next month at BMO Field. There is a buzz about rugby now.”
Young proudly pointed to the crane on site Monday and noted that while many of the big games will be played at BMO Field, Rio and other stadiums around the world, the Canadian players will have a virtual Made-in-Langford logo stamped on them.