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Historic tennis club to become multi-sport after redesign

Rideau Sports Centre teaser
The site of the Rideau Sports Centre, future and past. Sketch & Photo: Padolsky Architects.

By Charlie Pinkerton

It’s a matter of when – not if – a new multi-sport facility will sit on the banks of the Rideau River.

The vision for the Rideau Sports Centre, formerly known as the Rideau Tennis Club, was unveiled last month by Nicki Bridgland, CEO of the organization that shares the name of the facility being constructed, and Barry Padolsky, the architect tasked with redesigning the Overbrooke property that’s operated as a tennis club since 1912.

“It will add so much: a place to play, a place to connect, a place to meet, a place to rejuvenate and to bring the entire city together,” Bridgland said.

The envisioned site will see added sports and social facilities to what for more than a century has been primarily a space for tennis.

The facility will have the capabilities for sports including volleyball, basketball, dodgeball, soccer, floor hockey and beach volleyball.

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Nicki Bridgland. Photo: Charlie Pinkerton.

Bridgland is also the CEO and founder of the Ottawa Sport and Social Club, and sees the Rideau Sports Centre as a new home for the recreational sports organization.

“The Ottawa Sport and Social Club will be an anchor tenant at this new facility,” Bridgland said.

The facilities will however be open to the public on a charge-per-use basis, unlike the Rideau Tennis Club, which had been exclusive to its members.

“It will be no longer private so everyone of all age, skill, demographic, and sport background will be welcome to play,” Bridgland added.

“It’s going to be a dynamic place,” multi-sport instructor Nick Patterson said about the site.

Patterson’s Tennis For Life Ottawa will be another avid user of the sports complex. His sport instruction company will teach tennis on site every day of the week as well as other sports such as basketball and soccer.

Rideau Tennis Club members will have access to the club until Oct. 31. That date marks the conclusion of what Bridgland calls “Phase 1” of the facility’s renovations.

On Nov. 1, the club’s new domes, restaurant, yoga studio, and wellness centre, which, according to plan, will provide massage services and physiotherapy, are planned to open.

The two new domes will feature enhanced lighting and will be used for separate purposes. One dome will have four resurfaced tennis courts, while the other will have new multi-sport surfaces.

“Phase 2” of the renovation will be largely focused on redesigning the site’s clubhouse.

The site has been lacking a proper social facility since a fire on Dec. 12, 2001 destroyed the Rideau Tennis and Squash Club Building that had stood on the property. The clubhouse was originally constructed in 1920 and stood for nearly 90 years.

“The nifty feature to the building will be to open it up to see the beautiful park, its surroundings, and the tennis courts and the river,” said Padolsky, whose Ottawa-based firm has undertaken redesigns of the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Rideau Centre and National Arts Centre, among other projects.

“It’s been a significant investment,” said Bridgland, who chose not to reveal the exact cost of the club’s renovations.

“For me the grounds are so incredible and the potential is so high for here, especially for introducing multi-sport, that I thought that the risk was worthwhile.”

Bridgland said above all else she hopes the new, more accessible facilities will bring people together.

“Sport and physical activity is an opportunity to connect, and my vision for this property is that this site and this centre will be a place of connection, whether you play sports or you don’t play sports.”

Also announced at the Rideau Sports Centre’s visioning is a future in which the centre is assessable by cross-country ski via the Adawe Crossing, and by boat with docks on the Rideau River.

The proposed changes must be approved by the National Capital Commission, which owns the area on the banks of the Rideau River. The Rideau Sports Centre has a 17-year lease remaining on the land, which was acquired from the RA Centre in the summer.

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