Based in Ottawa, the Recreation Association – or the RA Centre as known to its members and public across Ottawa – is one of the largest private members, not-for-profit facilities in Canada today. The centre’s success directly relates to its spectacular wide range of recreation, fitness, sports and hospitality programs and services that the RA Centre offers to individuals of all ages.
While the RA Centre grows its service offerings, it still operates as a non-profit organization governed by a volunteer Board of Directors, where the Board determines the vision and strategic direction for the RA Centre, and works to support, strengthen and streamline the centre’s work and processes within the organization. The RA Centre offers highly qualified staff and hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers who turned it into Canada’s finest fitness and lifestyle centre.
Rick Baker, CEO-General Manager of the RA Centre, told The Canadian Business Journal, “We are in our 71st year of service. We were originally organized for the Public Service of Canada as ‘The Recreation Association of the Public Service of Canada’ but we have opened our doors to the general public in the mid-1980s, so today about 65 per cent of our members are related to the government service, the rest is made up of the general public. Those who become members of the RA Centre are eligible to sign up and use any activity provided by the RA. We have over 50 different sport recreation clubs and activities our members can join. We are one of the largest private members not-for-profit clubs in Canada with close to 23,000 members. We are open 363 days a year and we service various activities, hosting some 1,300 events a year — from weddings to business meeting and conferences. To support this we also have a full service food and beverage catering service, as well as full service restaurant for our members. So with all these services and activities happening, on any given day, we have about 2,000 people coming through our facilities.”
One of Centre’s strongest assets is the fact that the main, 40 acres sports complex is located right in the middle of Ottawa, beside a major transportation route, and the complex offers free parking. With its size, experience and diverse services, as well as strong belief in providing value-added service, the RA Centre complements all of the other sport and recreation providers in Ottawa.
Besides its main complex, the RA Centre also manages 12 satellite fitness facilities along with 40 cafeterias across government buildings in Ottawa. “We also own and manage the Rideau Tennis Club. With its 800 members, 18 courts, a members’ lounge and a fitness club, this is one of the largest tennis clubs in Canada. The RA Centre is an extremely busy property and to manage all this we have four Senior Directors and, during the peak season, 350 staff.”
Thanks to its experience and operational abilities, the RA Centre management has been approached to operate additional recreational centres, both private and public. “Yes, we were to consider managing arenas and community centres in Ottawa, as well as offers to manage a golf course. This is due to our team and due to our expertise. As far as our strategic plan goes, we are looking into developing several new clubs — canoe and camping club for one, and we are looking to expand our soccer property and amenities. We have also finished a major renovation of our ice hockey arena. We installed state-of-the-art high-efficiency refrigeration systems for both our arena and our curling rink. This system recycles all the energy back into the building and it is the only one in Canada. We were fortunate to have the Premier of Ontario joining us at the official opening.”
As a leading facility, the RA Centre hosts many international, national and regional championships. In 2012, the Centre was selected as the host site for the Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship as well as the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Summit. The Centre also hosts the annual Public Service Week — an annual event held by federal government departments to show their appreciation for public sector workers and the services they provide. To this Baker said, “In this event we will host 7,000 to 10,000 government employees, having picnics, playing baseball, soccer and volleyball and engaging in team building activities. We also have about 3,000 kids that come to our camps in the summertime, and we always find it exciting talking to parents, who tell us that they went to our camps when they were children as well. We have some 15 camp and aquatic programs we offer to kids in town.”
To increase the awareness of its services in Ottawa, the RA Centre participates in the local business community, with the Chamber of Commerce and Ottawa Tourism, as well as close involvement with the Ottawa Chapter of the Canadian Society of Association Executives and the Canadian Society of Club Managers and Meeting Planners International. With a vision to continue on the path of offering the best in wellness, fitness, sports and recreation, the RA Centre’s mission is to deliver excellent sports, recreation and hospitality services that promote healthy living for members and the community.