WATCH: Olympic rowers are among several national teams that train in Greater Victoria but Rowing Canada is taking bids for a new national headquarters that could see rowers leave Elk Lake. Tess van Straaten reports.
North Cowichan and Shawnigan Lake are vying to become the new home for Rowing Canada’s national training centre.
“We’re hoping Rowing Canada will take us very seriously,” says North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure of his municipality’s bid to have the headquarters moved to Quamichan Lake with a boathouse at Art Mann Park.
Saanich’s Elk Lake has been home to the men’s national team for decades and it’s also now the headquarters for the women’s team, which was previously based in London, Ontario.
But Rowing Canada is testing the water and bidding for the new, combined headquarters has been opened up to communities across the country.
So far, there are three bids from B.C., all on Vancouver Island, and two bids from Ontario, but North Cowichan is hopeful they’re the best fit.
“We like to to think of ourselves as an outdoor, athletic community,” explains Lefebure. “We’ve got a rowing club that’s been here for decades so I believe rowing is kind of in our DNA so we think we’re a particularly good fit for them.”
Quamichan Lake’s been used by Rowing Canada for training and regattas in the past and local leaders are hoping the region’s sporting culture, and more affordable housing, will give them the edge.
Nearby Shawnigan Lake — which has been used by Rowing Canada for more than 30 years — is also vying to host the teams, with a bid by the Victoria Rowing Society, the Canadian Sport Institute and Shawnigan Lake School.
“It’s the greatest lake in the province, if not the country, for rowing,” says Rudy Mussimo of Shawnigan Lake School. “We’ve had rowing teams from across the country here to train and I think having rowing Canada here is good for our community, it’s good for our school.”
With Shawnigan so popular and busy in the summer, residents are raising concerns about possible usage restrictions but Rowing Canada says it has no intention of doing that.
Elk Lake is the third bid from B.C. and it’s definitely the front-runner. Rowing Canada says it’s a tried and tested environment but officials admit there are concerns with all of the lakes — from usage issues at Elk Lake and Shawnigan, to climate concerns with the two Southern Ontario bids, and water quality.
Quamichan, in particular, has issues with blue-green algae blooms in the summer but officials say they’re working on it.
“We are tackling that head-on and we actually have a report coming out this fall on ways to maintain the water quality,” Lefebure says.
A decision will be announced in November and if the teams row out of Elk Lake, it would be after the 2020 Olympics.