The Campbell River Salmon Kings organization has hosted its annual invitational swim meet at Centennial Pool for a long time. Swimmers would come from all over Vancouver Island, set up camp in and around Centennial Park, as the team hosted its leg of the eight-event season around the beginning of July each year.
This year, however, with renovations happening at the facility this past spring, they decided to play it safe and shift over to Strathcona Gardens for the event, which took place last weekend.
“We were a little out of our element,” admits club president James Revoy, “because we were hosting it inside for the first time, but Strathcona Gardens has been more than accommodating to make the meet end up the way it did.”
While it ended up that the club could have hosted it at Centennial Pool, after all, as the renovations were complete and the pool was open in time for them to do so, they weren’t sure that was going to happen when they needed to start planning.
“We’d heard that they may have been planning to keep it closed all summer,” Revoy says. “So we needed to plan an alternative so that we had options. We started having meetings with Strathcona Gardens and every meeting that went by, we were more convinced that we should just have it up there.”
There was some consideration about booking both pools and cancelling one booking when they knew more about how the work was coming along on Centennial Pool, but they decided it was easier just to put their eggs in one basket, especially when the staff at Strathcona Gardens offered up the parking lot for all the visiting campers.
“When we book Centennial, we have to put in all kinds of applications and stuff for camping, and we just thought, rather than booking them both, Strathcona was being more than accommodating – they were telling us they wanted us to have our best meet ever, in fact – so rather than plan everything for each pool and then cancel one, we just went with them. It would have been just too much work to do it the other way.”
While Strathcona Gardens “cost a little more than Centennial,” Revoy says, the club didn’t increase any of the entrance fees or ask for any more money from its membership to put the event on this year.
“It’s not going to break the club,” he says. “We had to do what we had to do.”
One of the event’s highlights every year, Revoy says, is the annual Air Band Competition.
“It’s really one of the reasons that our meet is so popular,” Revoy says. “That Air Band Competition has been going on since 1994. We have a big trophy and the winning team’s name gets put on it, and the songs the teams pick are really good and the kids all dress up in costumes and everyone goes all out. It’s amazing.
“There’s some competitiveness at the meet, sure, but we’re all there to have a good time, as well.”
And the Strathcona Gardens meet lived up to long-standing expectations.
“We had a lot of compliments from a lot of people,” he says. “People always comment about how we go above and beyond at our meet and doing it up there this year, for being out of our element, and I can’t say enough about the help of the staff of Strathcona Gardens. They definitely did an amazing job helping us host our meet.”
The club now heads down to Saltspring Island this weekend, down to Sydney next weekend, and then end the season in Nanaimo at Regionals as the swimmers attempt to earn a spot on the Vancouver Island team that will head to Provincials in Kamloops.
In terms of the future of the local meet, Revoy says despite this year’s event going extremely well, they’ll still be headed back to Centennial Pool.
“We’re just more comfortable there, because we’ve been doing it outside for so long,” he says. “But it’s nice to know that there’s another place we can do it if we need to.”