Special to the Record
Most people who’ve ever experienced Vancouver Island love its magical mix of mountains and ocean. Spectacular natural beauty helps define the entire region and it’s fitting that a new community centre now sits on the slopes of Mount Washington, at the edge of Strathcona Provincial Park.
The multi-million dollar Vancouver Island Mountain Centre was designed through collaboration between the Vancouver Island Mountain Sports Society and CEI Architecture. Its intent is to bring together the Island’s diverse communities to celebrate all things outdoors. The 8,000 square foot, two-storey multi-use facility serves a variety of user groups, particularly mountain sports athletes and coaches, school groups and educational faculties.
“The original idea was to design a facility around the energy of the Olympics,” says Jim Aalders, a partner at CEI Architecture. “But the society also needed it to be flexible enough so that if a corporation or a school group wants to have an annual retreat or do a workshop there they could do that very comfortably.”
The prominent glass work throughout the facility provides blanket views across the oldest Provincial Park in British Columbia—from Paradise Meadows to the Elk River Mountains—and already makes the building one of the most recognizable on Mount Washington. In addition to dorm-style accommodation for up to 40 people, amenities include meeting and video rooms, training facilities for state-of-the-art fitness equipment, equipment storage, maintenance rooms, cooking facilities and a large dining room.
The centre came to be because of dedicated volunteers from across professional spectrums. Although approximately $800,000 of the total budget came from the Western Economic Development fund, almost equal that amount came in the form of donated in services, materials, and equipment, ensuring the centre was eventually completed on time and on a modest budget of approximately $3 million.
“It’s been an unbelievable effort by so many people who are obviously extremely dedicated to seeing the centre succeed,” says Aalders.
In part the centre is built to help the VIMSS generate revenue to support emerging athletes from across Vancouver Island. And with access to both the Nordic and alpine areas of Mount Washington ski resort literally at the building’s doorstep, there is plenty of interest and early demand. The building officially opened in early 2011 by hosting First Nations Snowboard Team coaches from across the province. According to the first guests, the Centre will serve visitors well at every turn.
“We will absolutely go back,” says Paul McIntyre, a lead coach for the team. “I really think that what sells it is the group area with the kitchen just off to the side and the great hall with a fireplace at one end and the patio and view at the other. That is a great spot to get a fairly large group and it’s a very usable space and really feels comfortable.”
The centre’s grand opening with dignitaries, sponsors and invited guests goes Feb. 22 from 2 to 4 p.m.