South Surrey weightlifting club homeless after 40 years at Semi

Weightlifters given three days’ notice to vacate South Surrey high school

A weightlifting club that has been training out of Semiahmoo Secondary for more than four decades needs a new home.

Dieter Stamm, founder of Semi Weightlifting Club, said that the search for new quarters is the result of an Oct. 13 email from the Surrey School District – telling him that the club could no longer meet at the South Surrey high school, effective three days later.

“Saturday (Oct. 15) was our last official workout there,” Stamm told Peace Arch News.

Stamm said that prior to the notice – which he didn’t see until late in the day – he had “not the foggiest notion” that the club’s home was in jeopardy.

There was “no discussion with me, no consideration with me,” he said.

School district spokesman Doug Strachan would not elaborate on the decision.

“Out of respect for any third party, we wouldn’t share any explanation,” Strachan said last week.

“I could confirm that we no longer rent the Semiahmoo facility to that renter.”

Strachan noted that the district’s rental contracts include a clause that enables such contracts to be cancelled at any time.

Stamm described what transpired as “unfortunate circumstances.”

While brainstorming for a new location began right away, if a new home can’t be found, “the kids are on their own,” he said.

Stamm said the competitive club is open to anyone, and that – up until Oct. 15, at least – its athletes hailed from both within the school and outside; one even travelled from Mission to train. He added that he is one of only two people in B.C. qualified to certify national weightlifting coaches.

Stamm – who retired from teaching in 2001 but continues to work as a teacher-on-call – said he started the weightlifting club on Sept. 8, 1970, after being hired to teach chemistry at Semi. It launched with two athletes; there are now 49 members, he said.

“My youngest lifter ever touched his first barbell at age four,” Stamm told PAN, noting the oldest, a 68-year-old woman, became a world champion.

“That was so cool when that happened,” Stamm said.

He said three of the club’s athletes have gone on to compete internationally.

Sea Fest OpenAdditionally, the club has hosted numerous high-level weightlifting events at Semiahmoo Secondary, including the annual Sea Fest Open, which attracts competitors from across the province.

Stamm estimates he’s spent $35,000 on Olympic-grade equipment over the years. He was given until Friday (Oct. 28) to get it out of the school. That work began last week, and the last of the gear was to be removed Thursday afternoon.

Anyone with ideas for where to relocate the club – “we can’t pay big bucks,” Stamm said – is welcome to contact him at 604-535-3063 or semilift@shaw.ca

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