By Daniel Vazzoler
The new clubhouse for the Ottawa River Runners, located near the edge of the Ottawa River’s whitewater tailrace at LeBreton Flats, is nearing completion ahead of what’s expected to be a landmark summer for the capital’s kayak-canoe community.
After work began on the new clubhouse and storage facility for the association last October, the long-awaited project is nearing completion as the June opening of the paddling season nears along the Pumphouse slalom course.
“There’s going to be things to add afterwards, but the big thing should be there, which is exciting for us because we have summer camps that we always run and it will be the first time that we’ll actually have a building to work out of instead of shipping containers,” said Roger Colbeck, a member of the River Runners board of directors.
The new canoe and kayak clubhouse will allow the club to increase the number of children who can attend the summer camps, Colbeck added, and the increased enrolment should help the sport grow.
He said the club offers spots for 80 kids in the summer camps, but added that the new facility could allow up to twice as many participants this summer.
Some of the spots in the summer camps are reserved for non-profit organizations serving children, and Colbeck said this allows the organization to strengthen its community connections.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said he’s excited about the new building and hopes it gives city residents a chance to visit an area that relatively few people have actually seen.
“It really is quite spectacular to have a whitewater course in the middle of a city,” said Watson. “It’s on a beautiful piece of land with Parliament Hill on one side and the old Pumphouse heritage building on the other side, so it’s quite a spectacular site.”
Colbeck also stated the new building allows them to better host races, like the Whitewater National Championships that will take place along the Pumphouse course this summer as part of Ottawa’s celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday.
“We’re in a much better place to do that,” noted Watson, “because we have a place where we can put timing equipment and the visiting athletes can store their boats and have a place to change.”
Ottawa’s bid for the Canada Games in 2021 was recently rejected, but Watson said the clubhouse was part of the pitch to show off the facilities that could have been used if Ottawa had hosted the games.
Colbeck said the Ottawa River Runners have received support from the city for the clubhouse, as well as from the provincial and federal governments throughout the process — most notably the $150,000 Ontario Trillium Foundation grant to help fund the construction.
Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna said in an emailed statement to Centretown News that, “As someone who enjoys paddling, I’m happy to see the upgrades being made to the Pumphouse for the Ottawa River Runners. The new facility is a great success for the club and our city. We are fortunate to have world-class athletes train in the heart of Ottawa and this will help them excel in their sports.”
The facility is being built on National Capital Commission land, and Cédric Pelletier, strategic communications advisor for the NCC, said the commission “proudly supports the Ottawa River Runners in the construction of their new clubhouse.”
He added: “This new clubhouse will be an environmentally sustainable and architecturally distinctive addition to the Capital’s shorelines, and will showcase our shared commitment to excellence in both design and competitive water sports.”
In the long term, said Colbeck, he hopes the new facility will allow more people to get into whitewater canoeing and kayaking, and improve Canada’s competition level on the international stage.
“We have so few kids in the sport, and athletes in the sport in general,” he said. “It’s hard for us to compete on the international stage. But that improves as we get more and more people into it.”