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NDSS plan includes new stadium

A huge high school project in Nanaimo would give the neighbourhood a new look and also shake up the city's sports scene.

The Nanaimo school board received and endorsed on Wednesday a Nanaimo District Secondary School site study, part of the planning process for a $65-million wish-list construction project.

The document represents a rethink of the entire property, not just the school buildings. The report, prepared by Cornerstone Architecture and Planning Group, suggests relocating and rebuilding Rotary Bowl stadium, demolishing Serauxmen Stadium, moving the school district's works yard to another part of the city, and constructing, in two phases, a high school that can accommodate 1,900 students.

"The report is very extensive, very comprehensive," said Dot Neary, school board chairwoman. "It doesn't commit the board to any particular course of action except to start consultations."

The report recommends a partnership with the City of Nanaimo on a new stadium for track and field, football and soccer, and co-operation with Vancouver Island University on a trades academy.

"I'm surprised at how well that site could be utilized to benefit the district, but also the benefit of the broader community," Neary said.

She said all the recommendations will be considered, no matter how drastic.

"I think so," said Neary. "[We've] endorsed the report for that reason – the board is looking at every option."

The architect's recommendation is to move the track-and-field oval where the baseball stadium now stands, put artificial turf in the middle of the new track and locate the javelin and hammer-throw fields at Rotary Bowl's current location.

According to Cornerstone's report, Serauxmen Stadium "has a lesser priority for continued location on site," which is "a reflection of land-use priorities" of the school district.

"Separating the track-and-field facilities from the Rotary Bowl infield requires additional site area, putting a premium on any further community land uses," the report notes.

Doug Rogers, manager of the Nanaimo Pirates premier-league baseball team, would hate to see baseball displaced in favour of javelin and shot put.

"That would be an awful shame if that's the reason why. There's got to be an alternative," he said.

Rogers said Serauxmen Stadium is unique in the province and a special field and said he would be upset if the children playing minor baseball now never get the chance to know the feeling of playing in that ballpark.

"That atmosphere stands for something…" he said. "It creates passion for the game, it gives kids something to strive for and it keeps old guys like me interested as well. It's a passion, and a stadium like that creates it."

No one is bulldozing any ball fields yet. Donna Reimer, school district spokeswoman, said she expects a public consultation process to be in place by the fall.

"Because of the nature of the site and [because] we have different partners possibly involved, it will be a progression of talking to people as we go along," she said.

The school district's 10-year Enhanced Facilities for Learning Plan anticipates the new high school opening in the fall of 2017, but the project's funding is not yet assured.

"You have to have the finances in place, which is a pretty key piece of the picture…" Neary said. "We're at that very early stage where you get excited because you see the possibilities, but there's an awful lot of work between the possibility and the final outcome."

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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