HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
The Ottawa Tennis and Lawn Bowling Club is proudly living in the present, grateful to announce its cherished past has been awarded a distinctive, international honour and its future is driven by a much-needed clubhouse restoration plan.
Club administrators and member players will reflect on 2021 not only because of its limiting restrictions to court time because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also because it was announced it had been accepted into the exclusive Association of Centenary Tennis Clubs and started the Phase 1 (ground floor) transformation of its heritage-designated clubhouse.
At 140 years old, the club is one of Ottawa’s great institutions. By 2023, the club hopes to complete the full restoration of the two-storey clubhouse in time to celebrate its 100th anniversary being located on Cameron Avenue in Old Ottawa South.
The club was founded in 1881 and had four different locations – Elgin Street at Cooper Street, Cartier Square, Patterson Avenue, and Third Avenue – before Cameron Avenue became the permanent home to its 18 clay tennis courts and other amenities.
So why, if the club’s history spans three centuries, has it taken this long to be welcomed into the Association of Centenary Tennis Clubs, which now has 78 members on four continents?
“I don’t know if anyone thought of it before,” said Maria Pierre-Noel, who has been club executive director for the past 11 years. “I just found out about it through my research.
“I’m interested about what is happening in the tennis world. I’m very attracted to its history. I was doing research on the tennis world and I found the Association of Centenary Tennis Clubs.”
The next step for Pierre-Noel was to learn how to apply for membership. It took a while, but after a series of phone calls and emails, the club provided all the required information – it’s more than 100 years old, has a great tennis tradition, is linked to its community, is inspiring future generations of players and regularly stages tournaments.
Over the years, the club has hosted numerous Tennis Canada-sanctioned championship tournaments, including the national seniors in 2016 and the national men’s and women’s closed championship from 1978 to 1981. The club also stages the Bloomex Cup, which attracts about 600 junior players.
On Nov. 7, 2020, the Association of Centenary Tennis Clubs accepted the Ottawa Tennis and Lawn Bowling Club into its exclusive fold, which also includes two other Canadian establishments – Mount Royal Tennis Club of Montreal and the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club.
The Ottawa Tennis and Lawn Bowling Club announced its new worldly status this spring and received a large banner, which is proudly hanging on its tennis court fencing, and a plaque. In the future, the club hopes to stage an international tournament in conjunction with the Association of Centenary Tennis Clubs.
“There was a lot of pride within our culture,” Pierre-Noel added about receiving this international distinction. “When new members come in, we tell them you are part of history and not just a tennis player. Our club is very engaging.”
Part of the club’s tennis tradition is its distinguished two-storey clubhouse, which has a balcony overlooking the main courts. In February, 2020, the City of Ottawa gave the clubhouse a coveted heritage designation for being a fine example of a recreational structure from the 1920s.
That classification and being a not-for-profit club have helped it move ahead in its restoration plan, which is the largest in its history and started about 10 years ago. In 2016, Open Plan Architects came forward with modernized drawings to bring everything up to code, while maintaining the integrity of the historic clubhouse.
Phase 1 restoration, which started Sept. 7, will see the ground floor winterized, an updated hall entrance, modern wheelchair-accessible washrooms, 800 square feet of renovated space (previously unused) for programming, efficient office space and upgraded structural, mechanical and electrical features. Some parts of the clubhouse date back 100 years.
This part of the full $2.6-million restoration will cost $1.5 million. Club members have donated almost $500,000, Canadian Heritage awarded the club a grant of $375,000 and Employment and Social Development Canada gave a $100,000 grant for accessibility requirements.
The balance will be covered through a financial strategy with the club’s bank and a membership assessment.
Phase 2 of the clubhouse restoration will concentrate on the second floor, when funding is available. The restaurant is located on that floor.
“We’ve done substantial work on the second floor, invested a lot and exposed the original beams,” Pierre-Noel said. “It’s a beautiful place. The only problem is it’s not winterized.
“We need to keep up the facility. We need to do everything we can to maintain the club.”
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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