Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

“We don’t have room in our programs to support all the kids who want to play, and that’s really tragic, and that’s what keeps us awake at night.”

Article content

The city of Ottawa is under pressure to increase the number of facilities for indoor track sports such as basketball and volleyball, as the council is considering a new master plan for municipal parks and recreational facilities.

Advertising

Article content

One possible answer, according to people involved in local sports groups, is to convert some of Ottawa’s hockey arenas into gyms to meet the growing demand for seats dedicated to track sports.

“What has happened in the city is simply that there is not enough training space for young people,” Derek Firth, president of the Ottawa Shooting Stars basketball club, said in an interview Friday.

“We don’t have room in our programs to support all the kids who want to play, and that’s really tragic, and that’s what keeps us awake at night.”

The final version of a 182-page draft master plan for parks and recreational facilities in the city is now in the hands of the council. The Society and Protection Committee and the Planning Committee are scheduled to have a joint meeting on September 27 to vote on staff recommendations to approve the plan. The decision would be used for advice for consideration on 13 October.

Advertising

Article content

The plan sets out parks and recreational requirements for the next 10 years. The staff suggests that there is a need to add even more facilities than expected.

For example, the city has planned to build seven new single gyms over the next 10 years. Now staff say there should be at least three additional gyms via “additions to existing municipal recreational buildings.”

Other facilities also receive recommended boosts to their number, such as ball diamonds (six planned, with a further 10 proposed) and outdoor basketball courts (29 planned, 10 more proposed). Ten more tennis / pickleball courts should be considered, in addition to the 24 tennis courts and 39 pickleball courts already planned, staff add.

Advertising

Article content

The growing need for more gyms, especially those for basketball, prompted sports groups to speak during several months of consultation on the city’s draft plan earlier this year.

The popularity of the Toronto Raptors NBA team has resulted in more kids wanting to play organized basketball in Ottawa, Firth said.

Firth said his basketball club had about 800 children each year, each paying about $ 350 in registration fees. Right time has been scarce, especially since school gyms have not been available during the pandemic, he said. The club has had to rent private gyms for up to eight times the price of public facilities.

“Basketball has always been an economically accessible sport because you do not need a lot of equipment and we are passionate about keeping it economically accessible,” Firth said.

Advertising

Article content

It is time the city takes a bold step to make more courts available to meet demand and a systemic inequality for youth sports, he said.

“We want to see the construction of new facilities with gyms that can support basketball and other indoor sports, and see the redevelopment of existing facilities,” Firth said.

“The best course of action would be to recycle hockey facilities.”

An outside look at the Plant Recreation Center.  The final version of a draft 182-page master plan for parks and recreational facilities in the city is in the hands of the council.
An outside look at the Plant Recreation Center. The final version of a draft 182-page master plan for parks and recreational facilities in the city is in the hands of the council. Photo by Errol McGihon /Postmedia

The city has 30 individual gyms. It also has access to nine high schools through agreements. The city does not build stand-alone gyms; they are usually included in multifunctional facilities, but sometimes they are not suitable for competitive gaming.

When it comes to arenas, the city owns and operates 44 indoor ice surfaces and books time at nine facilities through private-public partnerships.

Advertising

Article content

According to the city’s plan proposal, Ottawa is number three in a comparison of 12 other municipalities when it comes to how many gyms it provides to residents.

Still, Marcia Morris, executive director of the Ottawa Sports Council, said the lack of gyms has floated to the surface as a top priority for the local sports community. The city has a “desperate need” for facilities that allow track sports, Morris said.

“The reality is that our track sports are dependent on the school’s fitness centers, and what happened during the pandemic has shown how this strategy now works because the school’s gyms are ultimately unavailable,” Morris said, stressing the importance of indoor basketball courts .

“It’s a sport that our marginalized society is hugely involved in because it is accessible and affordable,” Morris said. “What the pandemic has shown is that our marginalized society has been left even longer in sports because the facilities that could have been affordable are not open.”

Advertising

Article content

While city-run gyms are often included in community and recreation centers, several groups compete for space, including those who use the gyms for meetings. Ottawa is not unique in that regard, Morris said.

When it comes to arenas, Morris says there is an abundance of arenas in Ottawa for the people who play hockey right now, and the city, even before the pandemic, considered the possibility of reusing some arenas.

One of the biggest puzzles in planning recreational facilities is to take into account the needs of older communities, such as those in and around the downtown core. This is where housing density often happens, yet there is no room to build new recreation centers.

Advertising

Article content

The debate over the future of municipal recreational facilities draws Coun. Mathieu Fleury in several directions.

As the council’s sports commissioner, Fleury sees Ottawa as a great sports city in general, but it has trouble providing high-level facilities for some sports.

And as a councilor for the Rideau-Vanier department, he is concerned that residents of intensified communities in the city center will not have reasonable access to facilities.

Fleury said the city has relied too much on school boards to accommodate the gym for sports organizations. He also brought the possibility of converting single-pad arenas to gyms.

The city’s plan must recognize that recreational assets in older communities inside the green belt do not adequately serve residents, especially those in neighborhoods at greater risk, Fleury said.

Advertising

Article content

“It does not take into account the age of the facilities, the limitations of them and some of the inequalities,” Fleury said.

jwilling@postmedia.com

twitter.com/JonathanWilling

Recommended determination levels for city-run recreational facilities per. Number of inhabitants (existing levels in brackets)

Leisure centers / complexes: 1: 70.000 (1: 71.100)

Indoor water facilities: 1: 50,000 (1: 50,800)

Spray pads: 1: 7,500 (1: 7,400)

Arena: 1: 20.000 (1: 20.100)

Outdoor Skating Rinks: 1: 5,000 (1: 3,800)

Outdoor cooling lanes: 1: 200,000 (1: 266,700)

Outdoor artificial turf pitches: 1: 120,000 (1: 133,300)

Ball diamonds: 1: 4,000 (1: 4,200)

Colleges: 1: 30,000 (1: 35,600)

Source: Draft master plan for parks and recreational facilities in 2021

    Advertising

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments can take up to an hour to appear on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications – you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, which is an update of a comment thread you follow, or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on adjusting your email settings.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.