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Central Saanich scores $2 million grant for new lacrosse facility

Other sports will also be able to use municipal facility in Centennial Park
Phil DiBattista, left, president of the Peninsula Warriors Lacrosse Association, and Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor welcome a $2-million grant toward a new facility for lacrosse and other sports in the community. (Courtesy of District of Central Saanich)

A senior lacrosse figure on the Saanich Peninsula says funding for a new facility in Centennial Park promises to transform the sport.

“This new facility is going to completely change the sport of lacrosse on the Saanich Peninsula,” said Phil DiBattista, president of the Peninsula Warriors Lacrosse Association. “We are beyond ecstatic, we are beyond excited about getting the grant money.”

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 extremely thankful for their support and them seizing that opportunity,” DiBattista said.

According to the municipality, 40 per cent of the money for the project will come from the federal government, 33 per cent from the province 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 facility and from Wallace Drive.

“We are extremely pleased to be able to add this facility to our community and know it will add more opportunities for recreation in all seasons,” said Mayor Ryan Windsor. “The pandemic has shown us the advantages of having outdoor, covered spaces that are multi-functional, and has also reinforced the physical and mental health benefits of recreation.”

The facility will be home to the Peninsula Warriors Lacrosse Association. Other sports and fitness programs will also operate out of the 17,000-square-foot facility.

The roof and lighting will increase year-round, all-weather access to outdoor recreational activities for Central Saanich and the region.

Preliminary work on the project will begin this spring, with detailed design and costing in late 2022 and construction starting in 2023.

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The local announcement comes amidst a period of growth for lacrosse, Canada’s national sport.

It is surging as a collegiate sport in the U.S., and the National Lacrosse League recently expanded to Las Vegas – the team’s owners include Canadian basketball icon Steve Nash and global hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, who often credits lacrosse for his successful hockey career.

“I’m very, very excited for the growth of the sport,” said DiBattista.

That growth is also happening on the Peninsula, already on the map as a supplier of youth talent. Six of the association’s graduating under-16 players were drafted by BC Jr. A Lacrosse League teams.

The pending arrival of a new facility not only underscores the long-standing support locally for lacrosse, but promises to resonate in other areas, including relations between First Nations and non-First Nations. According to DiBattista, up to 36 per cent of registered association members have an Indigenous background, and discussions with Tsawout First Nation about launching an Indigenous Junior Lacrosse league have already been underway.

Lack of a covered facility has hampered pre-season preparations between January and March, and DiBattista notes association teams have travelled to Langford to access indoor rinks for 10 or 12 years. While this has, in part, discouraged parents to sign up their children, the new facility will help the association attract new players, he added.

The covered facility will add flexibility for training sessions. While the association previously purchased lighting to get more use out of the existing facility, it is not adequate, DiBattista said. “Even that only allows us to work on a third of the floor and if it is raining it is too dangerous for athletes to play.”

While the loss of space at Panorama Recreation Centre contributed to a significant decline in registration in recent years, requests for registration have increased to the point where the association has had to turn players away, because it lacks facilities.

The covered facility will allow older age groups to play outdoors, which will ultimately means more teams and more games, DiBattista said.

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