$3 million info centre floated

Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce begins fundraising effort

The design of the new proposed visitors centre for the Saanich Peninsula.

Business leaders on the Saanich Peninsula are embarking on a plan to raise $1 million towards the cost of a new tourist information centre on the Pat Bay Highway.

Unveiled during the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce’s Tour of Industry on Oct. 30, the plans are for a $3 million building that will — they hope — draw in more of the 1.5 million vehicles that pass by the area each year going to and from the ferry terminal.

Designed by chamber member Art Finlayson, the proposed building is shaped like an eagle and is certainly eye-catching. It would replace an older structure currently in use alongside Highway 17 near Sidney.

It is hoped, Finlayson said in his presentation, that the federal and provincial governments would kick in the remaining $2 million for the project.

“Last year our tourist information centre along the highway attracted the second-highest number of visitors in B.C.,” he said, adding they also booked some $50,000 in trips up-Island.

This project, he added, hopes to grab more travelers and help them decide where to go and stay on Vancouver Island.

To help make it happen, Finlayson said the chamber board is working with area First Nations to possibly use a portion of the proposed centre to highlight their culture on the Island.

Another portion of the building would house displays involving the Island’s resource and industrial heritage. Finlayson said he’s spoken with the owners of Butchart Gardens, seeking support for potential landscaping at the site.

The rest of the space in the new building would be home to information services, office space and outdoor areas that could be used for local events.

“Victoria and the Island should have a better visitor information centre,” Finlayson said.

The chamber will also have to work with B.C.’s transportation ministry if they wish to change access points at the site.

The official  announcement of the project this week is essentially the start of the chamber’s fundraising efforts, Finlayson said.

While the chamber will seek two-thirds funding from other levels of government, Finlayson added there needs to be support from local businesses and municipal governments as well.

As for a project construction timeline, Finlayson could only say it depends heavily on how quickly they can come up with their share.

“As a chamber, we want this to happen ASAP,” he said.

For details, visit www.peninsulachamber.ca.


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