Todd Blumel takes a break during the final stages of construction of the hammer cage for the BC Summer Games. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

BC Games hammer cage a community project

Cowichan rallies together to make cage a reality

As the 2018 BC Summer Games got closer and closer, the Cowichan Valley community rallied to make sure a vital piece of track and field infrastructure was ready.

The old hammer cage was not up to standards for an elite province-wide event, so a replacement cage had to be built in a hurry, and it was no small feat.

“It was amazing how everybody came together to make this happen,” said Todd Blumel, who ended up overseeing the construction of the new cage.

For a piece of equipment that may get overlooked by many, the hammer cage took an incredible amount of work. First, it required the removal of the old throwing pad, which was overgrown and couldn’t be seen from the ground, and which Blumel found only after looking at satellite images on Google Earth. The concrete pad was six to eight inches thick, so the only way to break it up was by sledgehammer, which took Blumel four solid evenings of work.

Fortunately, he managed to recover a steel ring from the old pad that otherwise would have had to be fabricated for the new surface. Blumel was impressed with the craftsmanship of the ring, which had probably sat in the old pad for decades.

“It was probably built locally, and whoever made it did a beautiful job,” he said.

The new pad, once it was poured, was only part of the setup. The cage itself had to be purchased and constructed. It was bought from JumpStart Athletics in Edmonton, a company run by former Canadian international-calibre thrower Ian Maplethorpe, and delivered, posthaste by an otherwise swamped shipping company. For a foundation, Maplethorpe recommended screw piles instead of piles set in concrete, which is where Steve Frisch came in.

“They’ve already done them in other provinces,” Frisch said of using screw piles for hammer cages. “They’ve already demonstrated that’s the way to go.”

Frisch operates the Postech Screw Piles dealership for Vancouver Island, and offered a generous sponsorship deal for the 2018 BC Games, helping them save money in addition to saving a lot of digging and a lot of concrete. The piles were screwed into the ground on June 20.

The 10-foot piles are manufactured in Quebec from Canadian steel, and are Canadian Construction Materials Centre certified, so they could be used as foundations for structures much larger and heavier than a hammer cage.

Frisch has a particular interest in helping out the BC Summer Games, having coached rowing at the Games in the past. His partner with Postech, Tan Barkley, was a coxswain at the BC Summer Games and went on to compete in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

“The main thing for me is that it’s great to help out the games,” Frisch said. “It’s good to get a chance to help out the Games as a development program for youth.”

The legion of individuals who also helped make the new cage a reality includes Larry Green of DDS Welding, Steve Smid, who did most of the concrete work, Eric Fawcus of Little Mule Tractor Service, Barry Waters, who brought many talents to the team, Charles Lazenby, and young foreman Robert Lazenby. Another Lazenby, CVAC Jaguars athlete Lexi, will compete in hammer at the Summer Games on Saturday, and had the honour of being the first to throw off the new pad.

Although the cage is owned by the Cowichan Valley Athletic Club and is part of the Cowichan Sportsplex track and field system, the site is actually located on Duncan Christian School, something that DCS athletic director Tom Veenstra and principal Jeremy Tinsley helped make possible.

Immediately next door to the school, and overlooking the site of the hammer cage, is a strata community connected to the same church as DCS, from which Blumel had to get approval before the cage could be constructed. The neighbours not only gave their assent to the cage, but also started bringing out their lawn chairs to observe and offer their advice.

“They’ve been absolutely wonderful,” Blumel said. “They can’t wait until the games come. They’ve been so much fun.”

BC Games

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