Navy Master Seaman Michele Schnob, vice-president of the mess committee, stands on the waterfront deck of the Pacific Fleet Club lounge. The multi-use building will be shuttered in the new year due to a breakdown in its structural integrity. The club’s operations will move to the Naden side of the base next spring as a temporary measure. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

Waterfront Fleet Club at CFB Esquimalt the site of many memories

Longtime junior ranks mess forced to move, structural integrity compromised

An iconic social facility on the edge of CFB Esquimalt will be shutting its doors next year.

The Pacific Fleet Club, a social and professional gathering place for junior ranks members of the Royal Canadian Navy for the past 40 years, perched on the edge of the waterfront near the gates of the base, is showing its age and being phased out as the navy looks at other options.

The Fleet Club is being temporarily relocated to Building 40 at Naden behind the CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum. Long-term plans may see it incorporated with social venues at Nelles Block nearby.

Master Seaman Michele Schnob, vice-president of the mess committee that oversees operations of the Fleet Club, confirmed the structural integrity of the building, primarily the rebar in the surrounding support columns on the water side, has been diminishing over the years. Professional cost estimates done earlier this year determined the cost to repair the building would be more than $8.5 million, she said, and the decision was made more recently to move operations elsewhere on the base.

“So the best interest for us is to move to a temporary location,” she said. “I think the big point we want to put across is we want to continue mess culture and keep the Fleet Club as a venue where junior ranks can have their meetings and socialize.”

As for the memories from the current location, there are many, said Schnob, who has worked at the venue for 12 years and seen many long-time sailors stop in. It’s been a place to unwind for young sailors, the site of numerous dances and social outings, as well as a pleasant site for meetings.

“It’s a little piece of history and it does make me sad, because I’ve had plenty of experiences in there,” she said. “My husband is military as well and we spent a lot of time there. Now we take our kids to events there.”

The club, currently decorated to host various holiday functions this month, is one of several social venues operated on Department of National Defence properties. Others nearby include the Chief’s and Petty Officers Club next door, and the Wardroom on the hill directly across Esquimalt Road from those facilities.

A permanent location has yet to be settled on for the Fleet Club. Keeping it on the Naden side of the base would make sense, Schnob said, due to its proximity to Nelles and Bernays Barracks, both residential homes to new naval recruits and reserve members. CFB Halifax has a similar setup, she added.

The plan is to move to the temporary location in the spring or summer of 2018, after renovations are completed to Building 40. There are no plans yet in place to demolish the current building.

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