Thursday January 19, 2023 | VIEW ROYAL, BC [Updated April 25, 2023]
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
With a few VIPs and many community members present indoors at the new Craigflower Community and Performing Arts Centre this morning, the facility was officially opened by the Victoria Highland Games Association (VHGA).
The morning gathering featured the participation of local MLA Mitzi Dean (Esquimalt-Metchosin); Lana Popham, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport; and Town of View Royal Mayor Sid Tobias, as well as a Esquimalt Nation Chief Councillor Rob Thomas, Ian Booth who is president of Victoria Scottish Community Centre Society, and Victoria Highlands Games Association (VHGA) President Jim Maxwell.
The new community centre is built on the provincial and national heritage site of Craigflower Manor (at the corner of Craigflower Road and Admirals Road, with the entrance on Admirals as the main thoroughfare not far from the Trans Canada / Hwy 1), aiming to provide:
- a vibrant living space where all the community feels welcome.
- improved access to high quality community infrastructure.
- publicly accessible, multipurpose spaces that bring together different social and cultural activities to reflect local community needs.
- a community hub for performing and visual arts, culture and heritage activities.
With more than 150 people were in attendance in the bright open-space facility that can hold up to 300 people, VHGA president Jim Maxwell was pleased to welcome everyone to the 4,500 sq ft space that is expected to be a popular location for group events and social gatherings.
Most of today’s crowd for the mid-morning event appeared to be older in age, and many were members of the Scottish community.
The cost of $5.5 million building was supported by both provincial and federal funding, including $484,000 from the Canada Community Revitalization Fund as well as a combined federal/provincial investment of more than $2.8 million through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program ($1.09 million through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and $1.74 million federal).
Additionally, $750,000 was provided by the province through the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport.
The remaining costs of about $250,000 were supported through private donations (including for heritage bricks and Rowan trees). All donations over $25 receive a charitable tax receipt. Additional costs resulted, in part, due to the pandemic causing limitations on VHGA fundraising activities and the price of construction increasing significantly in 2021 and 2022.
Economies were achieved wherever possible, including buying the event seating (formerly used at the Victoria Conference Centre) at bid auction.
Bonus for View Royal:
The Town of View Royal (including the previous mayor and council) were thanked by new View Royal Mayor Sid Tobias, for their support through the funding and development process.
View Royal’s mayor called the new centre a “beacon of hope, a gathering place for our diverse community, a space where we come together to connect and thrive”. He further called the new facility a symbol of commitment to a better future for all residents.
“The center is a vision come true for our team of dedicated volunteers and will serve as an important community and tourism hub for both the residents of View Royal and visitors for many years to come,” said Maxwell. The VGHA president He said afterward that he wasn’t worried about drawing a crowd, given the popularity of the Highlands Games held on the property each summer (an event that attracts about 20,000 people).
Today’s podium leadership:
Lana Popham is BC’s new Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport (shifting over from the Agriculture portfolio as part of the new BC Cabinet announcement on December 7). She joked that after being engaged for five years, the new Craigflower Community Centre might be an ideal location for her future wedding.
Several wedding engagements and a black-tie Robbie Burns dinner are already booked for the newly opened facility.
Popham remarked that the new community centre is the perfect complement to the Craigflower Manor property, and that the BC government is proud to support it. “The building will strengthen the draw to this destination and support the health and growth of this community for years go come,” said Popham, who as a Saanich resident remarked on the range of many community attractions across the Greater Victoria region.
Local Esquimalt-Metchosin MLA Mitzi Dean (who is Minister of Children and Family Development) was excited to address the crowd, noting how the new community centre will be a positive contributor to social and community well-being in the west shore. “For people and communities to thrive, it’s important to have spaces to gather and meet, and the Craigflower Community and Performing Arts Center now offers this,” said Dean, who has built her career in the west shore over the past 17 years.
Noting the collaborative work between the VHGA, community organizations, federal and municipal leaders and the provincial government, Minister Dean congratulated the association for their hard work throughout the process of launching today’s new gathering-place facility.
Esquimalt Nation Chief Rob Thomas was pleased about the broad expectations for the new centre. He said that his people have always welcomed newcomers.
In an interview with Island Social Trends after the formal speeches, Chief Thomas suggests that reconciliation is really more about reconcili-action, as he notes that reconciliation implies that both sides did ‘something wrong’ to require rectification.
Low-key Scottish theme:
There was the briefest of bagpipe sounds as today’s VIPs entered the room for today’s event. Some of the speakers wore bright red as part of their attire.
Scottish kilts and crests are often combinations of green and red. Some men at today’s event were proudly wearing kilts and some women were wearing tartans.
Mayor Tobias did manage to sneak in that he is 12% Scottish, saying ‘the Scots get around’, which elicited a chuckle from today’s crowd.
On Saturday evening, January 21, the first inaugural Robbie Burns Dinner will be held at the new Craigflower Centre. Tickets $100 for a buffet dinner and glass of sparkling wine. Doors open at 5 pm, dinner at 6 pm.
Construction during the pandemic:
Long in the works, through the pandemic, the building permit was received in December 2020, construction started in July 2021, and saw building completion at November 30, 2022, with more land-related development still underway at this time.
The project team led by Maxwell and Booth, consisted of:
- Architect: D’Ambrosio architecture + urbanism
- Construction Manager: Knappett Projects Inc.
- Engineering Services: Ryzuk (Geotechnical), On Point (Civil), Read Jones Christoffersen (Structural and Building Enclosure), Avalon (Mechanical), AES (Electrical), LADR (Landscape), RWDI (Acoustical), McSquared (A/V System Design)
About the facility:
The building is round. This offers a suitable view from all angles, from both inside and out.
The interior features a round open gathering space, with beautiful polished wooden floors in the seating/gathering area. The sprung floor absorbs shocks, giving it a softer feel. Such floors are considered the best kind for dance and indoor sports and physical education.
Offices and food prep areas are situated along a hallway that orbits the main room.
The main room features large windows for bright natural light across the west side and the podium, and a durable flooring surface curved around below the windows (suitable for catering stations or trade show displays). There is soft overhead lighting with spotlights hanging from within wooden lattice designed for good acoustic effect.
A lounge/dining area looks over the front of the building with the parking lot in view and the Gorge Waterway in the distance across a bridge on Admirals Road.
On-site parking is relatively adequate, but for larger events people will probably want to use public transit (for which the location is well-suited).
The property of course features the Craigflower Mansion which is a heritage property.
Victoria Highland Games Association:
The VHGA is a registered non-profit society established in 1937 and is the largest Scottish and Celtic cultural organization in Greater Victoria. VHGA has a renewal 30-year nominal rent tenure with the provincial government for its stewardship.
===== ABOUT ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
Island Social Trends is a local and regional news service based in the west shore of south Vancouver Island.
This journalism service has been operating since 2008 in the west shore, under the direction of editor and publisher Mary P Brooke: first as MapleLine Magazine 2008-2010, then Sooke Voice News 2011-2013, then West Shore Voice News 2014-2020, then emerging fully online mid-2020 at islandsocialtrends.ca