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VICTORIA, BC: JUNE 26, 2008 - Cyclist members of the Greater Victoria Velodrome Association race around the velodrome, originally built for the 1994 Commonwealth Games, in Colwood near Victoria.

Deddeda Stemler For The Globe and Mail/deddeda stemler The Globe and Mail

When Colwood Mayor Dave Saunders voted in favour of closing the Juan de Fuca Velodrome two years ago, he truly believed no legacy money was available to resuscitate the run-down 1994 Commonwealth Games cycling venue.

But a Freedom of Information request revealed that the Canada Commonwealth Legacy Fund, created to develop high-performance sports programs at former Games venues, contains more than $14-million, money Mr. Saunders said could have been used keep the velodrome open.

"We always thought that the legacy fund had been used up after the 1994 Games and no longer existed, and then through an FOI request we found out it contains significant funds," Mr. Saunders said.

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"None of the key people involved with the fund ever gave us any indication there was a budget we could draw on."

The Canada Commonwealth Legacy Fund started in 1994 with about $15-million in seed money and produces "between $600,000 and $900,000" in annual revenues.

For the past 16 years, all proceeds from the fund have gone to Pacific Sport Victoria, mainly in support of national-level rowing, swimming and triathlon programs based in Saanich.

The velodrome is managed by the West Shore Parks and Recreation Society, which has board members from five area municipalities - Colwood, Langford, View Royal, Metchosin and the Highlands.

The original intent of the legacy fund, as indicated in the documents, was to ensure that facilities built for the Games "serve as suitable locations for national and regional high-performance training."

"We were one of the original partners in the agreement but we have never received any of the money or been consulted on how the money was to be spent," Mr. Saunders said.

Jim Reed, former executive vice-president of the Victoria Commonwealth Games Society, who helped set up the fund 16 years ago, said no legacy dollars were ever promised for the velodrome.

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The facility was supposed to support itself through fees and rental revenues, said Mr. Reed, who now chairs the Pacific Institute for Sports Excellence, an organization based at Camosun College that is in the process of merging with Pacific Sport Victoria.

"It's disappointing that the municipalities and West Shore Parks and Recreation dropped the ball on generating revenue from the Games facilities they inherited," he said.

In addition to cycling events, the velodrome was host to wrestling, boxing and lawn bowling in 1994.

The parks board fenced off the velodrome in August, 2008, after an engineering report identified safety and liability issues with its artificial turf infield. It needs about $1.2-million in upgrades before it can reopen, said Mr. Saunders.

However, Mr. Reed said legacy fund rules require that all money be spent on coaching and training programs.

Before it closed, Pacific Sport used the velodrome to train Olympic-level cyclists, among them West Shore native Ryder Hesjedal, who placed seventh in this year's Tour de France.

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Those programs would likely reappear if the velodrome were to reopen, Mr. Reed said.

West Shore Parks and Recreation Society chair Les Bjola said it's time to give all the original legacy fund partners a say in how the money is distributed.

"I was shocked to find out that, as a major contributor to the Commonwealth Games, we were never consulted when all along there was $14-million to work with," Mr. Bjola said.

"It's definitely time to have that discussion."

Special to The Globe and Mail

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