The Prince Rupert Racquet Centre is set for some big changes in the coming years. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Racquet redesign redeveloping Rupert recreation

Association seeking to turn racquet centre into a multi-sport complex

“What’s going on in there?” This is the question Prince Rupert Racquet Association director Richard Haley is hoping people will be asking in the coming years as the centre proceeds with a substantial redesign effort meant to bring club amenities and offerings into the modern day.

The seven phase project was initiated in 2012 with upgrades to the lighting, heating and hot water capabilities of the club. Now the centre is looking to improve the playing surfaces themselves through the addition of glass back walls for the squash courts.

“Right now it’s just a panelled wall with a glass door and one window, you can’t really see what’s going on in the court,” Richard Haley, director of the Racquet Association, said. “You can get around 12 people across the top to look over, but that’s really it. This will give people down below full view of the courts through the glass back wall.”

“We’ll have little bleachers so that when we have our tournaments we can have a lot more people,” Haley said, referencing the now annual squash tournament that returned in 2015. “We want to make it as open and accessible as possible. And it will give it a really updated and modernized feel.”

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Richard Haley and the Racquet Association have plenty of plans for the future of the centre. (The Northern View)

Plans for the new walls are well underway, with funding already secured from the Port through its Community Investment Fund. The centre is now in the process of receiving a matching grant from the city after presenting their plans at a city council meeting in June, as well as from the Northern Development Initiative Trust. Construction is expected to start in the spring of 2020, and take about a week to complete.

“It’s all about an effort to promote a sport that works really well in this environment,” Haley said of the squash courts. “It’s an indoor sport, it’s a great activity. In 45 minutes to an hour you can get an incredible workout.”

The Racquet Association won’t be stopping there though. Their development plan has five more phases planned after the installation of the glass walls. The third phase will involve creating a seating and locker room area, after which the attention will turn to constructing a new area for yoga classes to take place. The high ceilings of the current location mean it’s often chilly during classes, a problem that will be solved by building a new upstairs level to give yoga its own space. Spin classes will take place below the new yoga station.

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Rockfish Climbing will also be finding a new home at the Racquet Centre in the next 2-3 years, as they plan a move from their current home in the Civic Centre. “At the Civic Centre you have badminton, basketball, and you’re trying to shoehorn in other activities like climbing. It doesn’t really work,” Haley said.

“This will give them [climbers] complete access anytime. And for competitions, now you’ve got all kinds of viewing. You’ve got upstairs where you can look down, so if you’re a parent watching your kid climb up the wall, it’s a super fit.”

The Rockfish Climbing wall will eventually find a new home at the Racquet Centre. (The Northern View)

2023 will see the start of two new sports being added to the centre in the form of pickleball and bocce ball. Pickleball is currently exploding in popularity, especially among older crowds, and Haley believes Prince Rupert will latch onto the craze.

“Pickleball is going crazy,” Haley said.

“We want to try and centralize a lot of athletic things into one, rather than have things spread all over the place,” Haley explained of the plans to bring the multitude of new sports into the centre.

The centre is also hoping that taking part in one sport will ultimately lead to higher participation in others.

“The more activities you can have within one space the better. Because then people that come to yoga go oh my God there’s squash,” Haley said.

“Hopefully you will get a lot of cross pollination, and everyone will be doing everything.”

Alex Kurial | Sports Reporter
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