Vote leaves Cowichan Sportsplex with huge financial hurdle

The future of the Cowichan Sportsplex has been thrown into uncertainty after funding for the facility was put to nine separate referenda alongside municipal elections on Nov. 15, and some of them failed, while others passed.

"It definitely leaves things up in the air," said Sportsplex Executive Director Catherine Brandon.

For several years the Cowichan Valley Regional District has provided funding to the Sportsplex of upwards of $100,000 per year through a regional grant-in-aid.

Grants-in-aid are technically supposed to be for one-time funding situations, not annual contributions. In an attempt to switch the funding to a more proper and stable service funding arrangement, the proposed new bylaws were taken to the public.

Funding for the Cowichan Sportsplex, which is located in Duncan, has been contentious at the board table, with some directors arguing their areas should not have to pay for the facility as their constituents use it very little or not at all. Others argue that it is a regionally used facility, important for the entire Cowichan Valley as the area tries to build sports tourism by attracting more tournaments and large events like the BC Seniors Games and the BC Summer Games.

On Nov. 15, five of the nine areas voted against funding the facility, while four had "yes" votes.

Areas A, C, D, and E made up the "yes" contingent, while the referenda failed in Areas B, F, G, H and I. This leaves the Sportsplex looking at possible financial support from the CVRD of just $42,000, though even that is not fully confirmed yet, rather than the approximately $149,000 they got last year.

"That leaves us quite under what we need," Brandon said. "We do know that our budget is as tight as it can be. We give great value."

The Sportsplex is run for about $400,000 a year, which she describes as a "really good deal."

Brandon said the society that operates the complex will be watching anxiously on Dec. 10 when the matter of the Sportsplex comes before the CVRD once again. She said the society was holding a budget meeting on Nov. 26 to try to work out where they will go next. She said there’s a possibility they will ask the CVRD for a grant-in-aid, or they may have to look to the Municipality of North

Cowichan and the City of Duncan for increased funding.

"We wouldn’t be able to continue offering the same level of service that we do for that much of a reduced price," she said.

In spite of the disappointing results of the referenda, Brandon said she was encouraged by what she called "pretty impressive" percentages of support, even from the areas that voted "no" overall.

"It definitely kind of reconfirmed for us that we do have support through every corner of the region," she said. "That just gives us more encouragement that we’re doing what the whole community wants us to do, which is great. We just have this period of lots of question marks right now."