It was more of an ultra-marathon than a sprint, but the race to raise funds for a new running track and sports facility in West Vancouver has finally reached the finish line.
The District of West Vancouver today announced they’d reached their fundraising goal – thanks in large part to a sizable donation from a local family – and will begin construction this year on the facility known as the West Vancouver Place For Sport.
West Vancouver’s Armitage family made the big donation – the largest private donation received for the project – that helped finish the fundraising for the proposed facility at West Vancouver Secondary that will include an artificial turf field as well as a running track to be known as the Harry Jerome Oval. The facility will replace the sub-standard field and nearly 70-year-old running track at the school.
Fundraising for the joint project between West Vancouver Schools and the District of West Vancouver began way back in 2015, with donations from private citizens, schools, West Vancouver Football Club, West Vancouver Field Hockey Club, Park Royal and Onni slowly rolling in over subsequent years. The donation from the Armitage family pushed the fundraising total to $4,812,857, close enough for West Van council to agree to provide the funding required to complete the project on top of the $2.25 million the district already committed in 2019.
“It was becoming clear that the longer we spent fundraising, the more costs and budget estimates were rising,” stated Mayor Mary-Ann Booth in a release. “We really needed to find a way to move forward. Then, the incredibly generous donation of the Armitage family brought the funding to a level that allowed council to step in and close the gap. I am so appreciative of this support, and that of the almost 400 donors who have believed in this exciting project over the last five years.”
For the family that made the donation, this was more than just an act of civil goodwill. There are four boys in the Armitage family between the ages of 12 and 19, and they all are active in sports.
“Our family is very aware of the dilapidated condition of this sports facility,” said Kevin Armitage, a West Van entrepreneur and father of four sports-mad boys. “This past fall, our home football games had to be rescheduled to be played in North Vancouver as a result of the poor condition of this field. We are delighted that our family is able to help the community improve this facility.”
An application has been made to name the field after the Armitage family. Work is underway to finalize plans for the facility and begin construction “as soon as possible,” according to the district. That is welcome news for the volunteer members of the West Vancouver Place For Sport fundraising committee, a group that has been working to get the project up and running for more than half a decade.
"The response of the community to this exciting and much needed new sports facility has been inspiring,” said committee spokesman Geoff Jopson. “We applaud the generosity of the hundreds of families, service clubs, parent groups, and local businesses whose commitment to this project has helped us to reach the finish line. We are very grateful for the extraordinary generosity of the Armitage family, and for the ongoing support shown by mayor and council."
Last February, West Vancouver Schools announced the new track would be named after the late Harry Jerome, a celebrated sprinter and educator from North Vancouver who in his heyday held the title of the world’s fastest man.
"I know that my late brother Harry Jerome would be absolutely thrilled to see the West Vancouver Place for Sport become a reality, as he trained and competed on this track while still in high school,” stated his sister Valerie Jerome, who was also a world class sprinter. “In the years following his remarkable achievements, he worked passionately to bring sporting opportunities to young Canadians in the hope that they too could enjoy the countless benefits of athletic competition.”