The perplexing ‘Plex and why vote should be yes

Treasurer – There is a saying that goes along the lines of “why let the truth interfere with a good story”! So here goes with an attempt to assuage any negativity out there.

I have been associated, as treasurer, with the Cowichan Sportsplex since 1999, at which point we had 22 acres under development, an unfinished track, and little liquidity to move forward. The Chesterfield Sports Society had been formed in 1996 at the suggestion of North Cowichan and School District 79, with the complicity of the sporting community. The society was registered as a charitable non-profit to encourage donors who would have tax receipts. The main purpose, and the reason we received initial funding from North Cowichan and School District 79, was to build a track, which had been identified as the most needed component.

Once that part of the facility was commenced other groups came forward to be included.

With all the sporting groups we received help with fundraising, supply of volunteer labour, materials and equipment. As time progressed we were able to lever the funds that we had available, that we had received as donations from prominent families and businesses, from service clubs making donations of money and time, from national entities such as banks, insurance companies and other major corporations, and funds that we raised from 12 Hour Relays and other sources.

You will notice that I have not mentioned the CVRD, and for very good reason. We recognized very early on in the build-out phase that such a request could be problematic. What this did was place a zero tax burden on the CVRD for capital purposes.

Taxation is a great leveler when used appropriately. It works towards providing services and infrastructure that would not normally be achievable if left to the private sector where profit is the driver of the enterprise. Cowichan Sportsplex is an outstanding example of what can be achieved when all work to a common end.

We did recognize early though, that these types of facilities have little chance of being self sufficient for operating funds as user fees have to be reasonable to achieve and allow the public usage that they are built for.

Ultimately we accepted we would have to make an approach to the CVRD board table for operating assistance as we are truly a regional facility, with users from all areas, and of all ages, who visit the site for many reasons. And come they do. There have been usage numbers circulated by the CVRD from a study done this year. I don’t think they even come close to measuring the true flow through. We hosted the NAIG Games in 2008.

We hosted the BC Seniors Games. Both events we are proud to have on our CV! We will be part of the 2018 BC Summer Games. Many other sporting events happen on this site as well as the week-in week-out seasonal play that takes place. There is a soft walking trail newly opened this year at little or no cost to the local taxpayer, which together with the oversized outdoor exercise equipment (donated by the provincial government) and illuminated night use, makes us a safe place for the elderly.

For the future, we have still some unfinished work, but expect to fund in the same manner as we have in the past, by raising private funds, then using matching grants to complete the project. This plan has a very light footprint on local government. In exchange the community has a facility that in today’s dollars, particularly if land acquisition was included, would easily exceed $12 million to achieve.

We are very proud of what we have accomplished. The planning, the fundraising, the fact that we have minimized the burden on the local taxpayer by the way we obtained capital to build out the facility, facts that have been overlooked by the naysayers.

We know going into this referendum that we can lose just as easily as win. But please be aware that the referendum is NOT granting new funds, but reallocating existing funding within the CVRD budget.

It is a very small amount when compared to recreational costs in general. Or even a $5 cup of fancy coffee per household. Even if you only vote yes for this facility, go out and do it. We are a success story that deserves it.

Richard Ellis, treasurer Chesterfield Sports Society aka Cowichan Sportsplex

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