Sunday, May 26, 2024

Rideau Sports Centre opens second tennis dome

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The Rideau Sports Centre has opened a second tennis dome, partially in response to a surge in interest in the sport during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rideau Sports Centre CEO Nicki Bridgland said Thursday that people who hadn’t previously played tennis picked up rackets because it was “a safe-distance sport.”

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That curiosity has continued, Bridgland said, “so we’re seeing a lot more people participating who have never played before.”

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The sports centre, at 1 Donald St. in the Overbrook area, has doubled its number of hard tennis courts to eight from four. The domes are large inflated structures just outside the main building. It can now offer 864 hours of indoor court time per week. Users reserve courts online for an hourly rate; there’s no membership.

“The thing that I get the most joy out of is looking at our ‘Learn To Play’ programs, where we have 50-100 adults who have never picked up a racket before,” said Carrie Cuhaci, the sports centre’s director of partnerships. “It’s so fun — they’re hitting the ceiling with balls, they’re hitting each other with balls, and everyone’s laughing, everyone’s having a great time. And, by the end of the session, they can hit a ball! And they come back for more.”

The facilities aren’t just for recreational athletes, though.

Bridgland described the variety as “everything from (people who have) never held a racket and always wanted to,” and up to champions.

Two youth provincial champions and members of the sports centre’s competitive development program, Eli Marks and Julien Gagnon, attended the grand opening Thursday with their coach, Pierre Tafelski.

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Bridgland said that having more courts will help the sports centre better serve players of all experience levels.

“We value the beginner as much as we value the experienced player,” she said.

Going forward, Cuhaci hopes the added space will allow the Rideau Sports Centre to host even more tournaments, in addition to those that already use its facilities. In 2024, it is hosting 15 junior tournaments, compared to six in 2023, and Bridgland said that number will continue to grow.

“We’ve got the Ontario and Quebec champions here. There are quite a few age groups for juniors. I’d love to see even more high-profile tournaments. And also, para-tournaments. That really comes back to the values that Nicki has created of inclusivity and accessibility.”

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