It was the summer of 1987 and the new track at South Delta Secondary was being hailed as a “faaaaaantastic” facility by none other than Bill Vander Zalm. The premier of the day had made his way out to the Tsawwassen high school for the opening ceremonies of the B.C. Summer Games and, as he was prone to do, was gushing, this time about the amenities which included a new rubberized surface for the running track.
The Zalm was correct as the new track was not only a shiny centerpiece for that week of athletic competition but served as the most enduring legacy of those Summer Games. Fast-forward three decades, however, and that same track had fallen into such disrepair that the school district ripped it up this week because it posed a safety hazard for those who still dared to use it.
It’s hard to quibble with the pre-emptive move, and there’s certainly no argument here with board of education chair Laura Dixon’s characterization that painting lines on the asphalt underneath the now-removed rubber isn’t an ideal situation. The problem is that ripping it up was the easy part; finding the money to replace it will be the real challenge.
Even though the board didn’t have to do the usual hack and slash job to its budget this spring, it’s still in no financial position to undertake this or other needed sports amenity upgrades, an area of the school system that has quite literally been neglected for decades. I also don’t see a riding that elected a Liberal MLA getting much love from a NDP provincial government and I’m not sure how much bang a private partner would get from being involved.
That leaves the feds (hello, cabinet minister Carla Qualtrough) and the City of Delta, which up to this point has been reluctant to fund initiatives on school district property given it has its own ever-growing wish list of parks and recreation projects, to step up. I could see Delta coming to the table this time because there isn’t a running track in any city park and a track is an amenity that would be used by the wider community, but there’s no way city hall is footing the whole bill.
That means others are going to have to get involved or that once “faaaaaantastic” facility will be little more than a circular sidewalk.