Sport groups, community members, local Olympians and dignitaries representing four levels of government joined in celebrating the official opening of the new North Delta Secondary track facility Saturday morning.
The new World Athletics compliant facility is the first of its kind in Delta and features an eight-lane rubberized competition track, a natural grass infield for throwing events (javelin, hammer throw and discus) and community sports, spaces for other field sports (shot put, high jump, long jump, triple jump and pole vault), two multi-sport courts (tennis and pickleball) and a walking path around its perimeter.
“This new community recreation amenity is a real testament to what can be achieved when we work together,” Mayor George Harvie said at Saturday’s event.
The $8-million project was a collaborative effort between the city, school district, and provincial and federal governments, with the city receiving more than $5.8 million ($3.2 million in federal funding and $2.66 million in provincial funding) through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, as well as $2.13 million in other applicant funding.
“We were going to build it with or without a grant, that was our commitment, but we were so fortunate to have sizable funding received from the federal government and with the co-operation of the provincial government,” Harvie said.
“Receiving that $5.8 million allowed us to take the planned money that we were going to spend here and move it to other recreational assets and projects in Delta, so it’s extremely important that not only did it help get this built, it’s accelerating improvements to our other facilities with the money that we had left over from the grant opportunity.”
The facility was hailed by everyone in attendance as game-changer for the entire community, especially for young athletes pursuing dreams of Olympic gold.
“I’m just blown away for the opportunity for our track and field athletes to train in Delta. So many or our families and our athletes had to go train in Surrey or Richmond before, but now we have a [World Athletics] approved track. We can host world-class meets here, we can have all the training here, we can host BC Summer Games here, it’s just so exciting,” Delta MP and two-time Paralympic swimmer Carla Qualtrough said Saturday.
“The possibilities are endless.”
Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon, who twice competed at the Olympics with Canada’s men’s field hockey team, described what it was like training on the old cinder track, with its uneven surface and tendency to flood whenever it rained.
“In 2005, I was training to go to the Olympics. I was at that point in my career where I wasn’t sure if I should keep doing this, my family was telling me its time to get a job, get on with life, but I really wanted to go to Beijing [in 2008],” he told the crowd.
“I was running around this track (…), I was just about over in that corner, it was a puddle and I stepped in it, and I rolled my ankle. And I remember sitting there thinking, ‘How the heck am I going to ever do this if I can’t even train on a proper facility in my community?’ I was so frustrated by it.”
Jasmine Mander, who recently returned from Tokyo with an Olympic gold medal as part of the coaching staff for the Canadian women’s soccer team, also recalled training and competing on the old NDSS track while growing up here in North Delta.
“I went to Heath Elementary and all of our track meets used to be here. And every year (…) you’d see it get rundown more and more,” the 2013 Seaquam grad told the Reporter. “And now, to come back at 26 and see the facility, you know how many memories are going to be made here. Like, I remember sitting on that ND hill when it was engraved with the grad years, so this is special and it really is going to bring people together.
“Even for myself, as a staff member involved in national programs, it gives me somewhere to go and go for a run. So I can only imagine what it’s going to do for the athletes that are dreaming as big as they are right now. It means so much to have this right in our backyard.”
“This is more than a track; this is how you build community,” Kahlon said Saturday. “This facility here is going to bring community together, all different ages — whether you’re competing for the Olympics, whether you’re one of these young athletes that one day will be at the Olympics, or whether you’re a life-long athlete and you’re competing here at pickleball. This facility is adding to the heart of North Delta, and that’s why we’re so proud of it.”
Even before Saturday’s grand opening, the walking path was in near-constant use by folks in the community.
“Once they flattened out the land people started walking on it,” school board chair Val Windsor said. “Then when it was paved… you can come here any time of the night or day and it is being very well used already, and it’s going to continue to be an important amenity for the community.
“Residents of all ages are using that walking path, and as a senior I know that this is a far safer place for people to walk than it used to be in the past. Staff and students at North Delta [Secondary] are itching to be able to use the completed track.”
NDSS principal Aaron Akune called the new track a win-win for the school and the community.
“We’re just really excited. We have so many kids here in the local community — whether they’re ours specifically or going to our neighbouring schools — with athletic ambitions and it’s just a good opportunity for them to be involved in something positive. And to have this now in our own backyard is terrific,” he told the Reporter. “So it’s great for the school, it’s great for the kids, great for community athletics. Just a win-win all around.”
The new facility comes equipped with competition hurdles, high jump and pole vault landing pads, movable soccer goal posts, steeple chase barriers, and a track timing and finish line photo system.
Line painting and other small touches will be completed in the next few weeks, and the facility will soon also include seating for up to 240 people, plus dedicated areas for persons with mobility challenges.
Construction of a fieldhouse with washroom facilities, change rooms, storage for community sport groups, a strength and conditioning space, work spaces and a water bottle fill station is expected to be complete in 2022.