How pickleball can help fuel Ottawa’s economic recovery

Editor's Note

This article is sponsored by Ottawa Tourism.

With events and festivals making their return to the capital, a resurgence in sports tourism is expected to follow suit – in part, due to a set of new state-of-the-art sports facilities opening in the community. 

The RA Centre is developing the first indoor pickleball centre in the city, a 13,500-square-foot space equipped with seven courts and the ability to host large competitions, teaching clinics and events. 

Similar to ping-pong, pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of tennis and badminton, with players facing off on tennis-like courts using a plastic ball. 

Pickleball Canada – the national organization for the sport – has also joined the House of Sport at the RA Centre to further support the growth of pickleball in Ottawa and serve as a partner for local tourism initiatives. 

As the fastest growing sport in the country, having a presence in the nation’s capital to cater to the growing demand is important, not only for the sports community but for Ottawa’s post-pandemic recovery, says Robert Kawamoto, assistant director, major events and sport at Ottawa Tourism. 

“It means more people coming to town, staying in hotels, eating in restaurants and driving economic activity in Ottawa,” he says. “Sport also brings people together safely, and sparks an energy in the community that we’ve been missing throughout COVID-19.” 

Adding to that momentum is the redevelopment of the RA Centre’s hockey arena into the Curling Centre of Excellence. 

Ottawa has a strong curling community, which will be further strengthened and enhanced by the new stadium-style curling rink, says Tosha Rhodenizer, CEO of the RA Centre. 

Ice technicians from across Canada are working on the new curling centre which will serve local, provincial and national groups, including Curling Canada’s 2022 winter Olympic qualifying events this fall. 

“We are so excited about the hosting opportunities coming our way thanks to these new updated sports centres,” says Rhodenizer. “The relationships we have with the national sports organizations and Ottawa Tourism will continue to play a pivotal role as we see a resurgence of sport activity in Ottawa and beyond.” 

Fueling economic recovery

Sports tourism continues to be a key to Ottawa’s economic success, attracting millions of dollars to the economy every year. 

While COVID-19 halted team sports, Ottawa Tourism and local sporting associations continued to pitch the capital as a top destination for competitions in 2022 – securing some big name events including the CP Women’s Open in August. 

Ottawa Tourism works closely with the organizations, helping them develop bids and showcase what Ottawa has to offer as a host city, providing marketing materials and information on hotels, convention sites and sports facilities.  

“Sport is really important in a city like Ottawa because it can help fill hotels during those off-peak tourism or business convention periods,” says Mikayla Palladino, manager of major events and sports at Ottawa Tourism. “It also brings support to various areas of the community depending on where a competition is taking place, which is great for local shop owners and businesses.” 

As the community gears up for a busier 2022 competition season, the team at the RA Centre is looking forward to welcoming guests to their new facilities and contributing to the overall success of Ottawa as a host city. 

“It is a quintessential part of community building and we are thrilled to contribute to that narrative,” says Rhodenizer. “What could be better than working with like-minded individuals that are looking to advance sport in a community like ours?”

What is the House of Sport?

The House of Sport brings together national and multi-sport organizations under one roof at the RA Centre, creating a local hub for sport innovation and growth. 

Similar to an accelerator program, the project has re-purposed 36,000 square feet of space at the RA Centre and features meeting rooms, individual workstations and collaborative space. 

By bringing together various sports federations, organizations and companies, the House of Sport is creating opportunities to share costs, business development strategies, communication networks as well as best practices.

It also provides local organizations such as Ottawa Tourism with a direct connection to sports leaders in the community to help ensure Ottawa remains a top choice for competitions and conferences.