TRANSFORMATION FROM VELOX VALHALLIANS TO WESTSHORE RFC: THE STORY FROM MIKE HOLMES
The future of the club became at risk in 2002 when the University of Victoria purchased the club grounds at 3957 Gordon Head from BC Hydro. Notwithstanding some protests and political objection the university made it clear that they intended to ensure the property was reserved for university use in the eventual future. The club successfully negotiated a generous lease that recognized the investment made by the club in the property but the terms were such that it was only a matter of time before the club’s tenure would be ended. There was a significant financial incentive to move before the end of the full 20 year lease as the university would pay for the value of the building that was created through the efforts of Bruce Johns and his supporting cast in 1988 but only if the lease was terminated at the end of the initial 10 year term. In addition because of changes to liquor laws, and the increasing costs of maintaining the club it was clear that continuing with the current “business” model was not sustainable. Indeed it was only through the kindness of Barry Wheelhouse who lent the club funds in their hour of need and the dedicated stewardship of the long suffering Christel Hume as treasurer that disaster was averted in 2008.
So around 2010 the club realized that it needed to move and find a new home or it would not survive. The obvious preference was a new home in Saanich. The newly appointed committee of Mark Wyatt, Steve Neish and Mike Holmes narrowed down the options and they soon narrowed to nothing as soccer and other sports had essentially secured every recreational facility not only in Saanich but also Oak Bay, and Victoria.
Westshore beckoned and Langford was approached and seemed to be keen. However discussions continued while time ran out and it seemed that our future was contingent on uncertain developments plans that may or may not occur within our required time frame.
At one early point Steve had inquired at Westshore Parks and Rec as to the possibility of building a new field on adjoining federal government lands. Though this train of thought petered out in a bureaucratic morass the door was open and we re-engaged Westshore to see if they could accommodate us at their existing facilities. Fortuitously our interest co-insided with a long standing goal to create an artificial turf field within the old velo drome and the broad points of an agreement started to develop- we would pay for a field and Westshore would give us preferred access to training and playing facilities.
Eventually after many meetings and navigating our collective ways through the political issues and myriad details required to finalize an agreement we put ink to paper in late 2014. The Westshore team lead by Linda Barnes and Wade Davies deserve much credit for their goodwill and willingness to put a fair deal together. At the same time we concluded our lease tenure with UVIC, not without hiccups but finalized on excellent terms through the help of Clint Hamilton and Kristi Simpson and the gift of a new roof by long time sponsor Rod Parker. Once the paper was inked and dried there remained much to do and with the assistance of President Mark Wyatt’s with the team of Brian Beglau , Jay Jimmo and others were instrumental in ensuring that we met our obligations to UVIC and moved everything of need to our new home. Though many will miss the old barber chair, the heavy slate pool tables and a hundred plaques and jerseys over time our new facilities will also become a place of meaning.
The clubs new name is now WESTSHORE RFC, with a new home starting the season in Sept 15.