Rowing Canada Aviron has received a $220,000 grant from Island Coastal Economic Trust towards phase two of its four-phase plan to establish a National Training Centre and new home for rowing on Quamichan Lake.
The project is a partnership between Rowing Canada and the Municipality of North Cowichan and the Cowichan Valley Regional District.
The funding support from ICET for phase 2, which has a total budget of $866,775, is through its Strategic Tourism Infrastructure stream of the Capital and Innovation Program.
Phase two is expected to get underway shortly, with a June, 2023, completion date.
Quamichan Lake is a shallow, scenic, protected body of water that offers idyllic year-round rowing conditions.
At full build-out, this four-phase project will include enhanced lake access, a shell house for storing national team and community rowing equipment, and a dryland training centre; and it will be the first purpose-built para-rowing facility in Canada.
“No other lake on Vancouver Island has the capacity and benefits offered by Quamichan and the surrounding Cowichan area,” said Terry Dillon, CEO of RCA.
“This underutilized lake can easily accommodate the six-lane, 2000-metre buoyed racecourse that is needed by the national team for daily training and for hosting selection trials and regattas.”
Phase two improvements focus on shoreline and dock infrastructure, such as fully accessible pathways and ramps; new launches for rowing shells, canoes and kayaks, and personal watercraft; improved roadway access, turnaround, accessible parking, and a staging area where watercraft can be readied for launch.
A sheltered floating dock will also be installed for motorized launches used for coaching, safety and officiating of selection trials and small regattas.
“This new national training facility will significantly boost the local ‘active economy’ by contributing to the development and delivery of sport and active recreation experiences,” said Aaron Stone, chair of ICET.
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“A strong active economy is known to drive growth, employment, and development of skills essential to innovation and diversification. The enhanced infrastructure will introduce a new tourism experience to the region, increasing opportunities for increased length of stay, new reasons to return, supporting increased visitor spending.”
The training centre will host an annual array of world-class competitions and talent selection/training camps, each event attracting hundreds of competitors, coaches, parents, and spectators to the region.
The presence of national team athletes is also expected to inspire interest in community and high-school level recreational and competitive rowing, as has occurred at RCA’s current training centre on Elk Lake.
Other Canadian communities that national teams call home experience considerable positive economic and social impacts, including the cycling velodrome in Milton, Ontario and the canoe/kayak facility in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
“In addition to $13 million in capital investments, this project is estimated to result in $4 million in annual recurring income and national team program expenditures into the region,” said North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring.
“The NTC will support hosting of events and activities and is projected to generate over $2 million annually from participants, spectators and visitors.”
The RCA estimates 20 to 40 positions including coaching positions, team therapists, medical, equipment and property management, team support and administrative roles.
The relocation of 30 to 50 national team athletes, coaches, admin and technical staff will have a further impact of $2 million in annual salaries that will be spent in the region.
By introducing a professional sporting asset and sport science practitioners, the project is also expected to attract other national teams.
“Quamichan Lake was a historically important waterway and a former destination for traditional Cowichan Tribes events,” said Dillon.
“Rowing Canada will support Indigenous athletes interested in re-establishing these traditional water-based events on the lake. In keeping with RCA ‘Community Sport for All’ initiative, the facility will also actively invite participation from under-represented populations, including Black, 2SLGBTQQIA+, and newcomers.”