British Columbia

Surrey Legion members meet in sushi restaurant while new digs built

At first glance, it looks like any other legion in the country — a pair of pool tables in the corner, TVs on the wall display sports highlights and Keno numbers, and the bar has cold beer on tap.

The Whalley Legion will be replaced with $300 million project

The Whalley Legion on 135A Street and 106 Avenue in Surrey in 1963. (Surrey Archives)

At first glance, it looks like any other legion in the country — a pair of pool tables in the corner, TVs on the wall display sports highlights and Keno numbers, and the bar has cold beer on tap.

There's one thing, however, that sets Whalley Legion Branch 229 apart. The bamboo strips that form a checker pattern over the windows are a dead giveaway.

Up until recently, this was a sushi restaurant.

Longtime member Edna Barnes says she's still getting used to the new digs. "It's certainly not like the old one. That's for sure."

An artist's rendering of what the $312 million Veteran's Village project will look like when it's completed. (Lark Group)

Saying goodbye

The old legion, which has stood at the corner of 135A Street and 106 Avenue since 1960, is currently hidden under a white tarp.

It's expected to be torn down next week and a new legion, condo towers, mental health facility for veterans and first responders will sprout up in its place.

"I miss it and I try to drive by there every few days," Barnes said.

"It's going to take some getting used to, but in the long run, we're going to have a beautiful near legion."

The $312 million 'Veteran's Village' project is designed to resemble the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France.

The first phase, which includes the new legion, is expected to be completed in 2022. Until then, members will gather around the corner at the new sushi-restaurant-turned legion.

Charlie Caroll sits with friends at the Whalley Legion's new temporary location near King George Blvd. and 108 Avenue. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

Younger members

The Whalley Legion, like many other legions around the country, is struggling to attract younger members. Barnes hopes the new building will serve as a recruiting tool.

"That's our problem," Barnes said. "We can change a few things in the new building. We'll have to change our music and other things."

Meanwhile, members are still waiting for the province to sign off on a liquor licence for the temporary legion.

Past president Fred Halcro says the process is taking much longer than he'd like. "For a two block move I think it's a little ridiculous that we don't have it yet," he said.

"Hopefully we get it pretty soon."

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