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Waterfront & Tennis Centre Proposal

Wynne drops cash for college buildings, waterfront

Background

Sault College holds firm to the conviction that it will be recognized as the pre-eminent student-centred postsecondary institution in the province with an unyielding dedication to giving students the tools to reach their goals and in doing so will be a cornerstone of the communities it serves.  Sault College will embark on projects that have meaningful impact on its educational enterprise, increase student engagement and have positive outcomes for the community.

Two years ago Sault College received a gift from the Dr. Lou and Mrs. Mae Lukenda Foundation. This gift was the former Rotary and YMCA Tennis and Aquatic Club, referred to in the Sault Ste. Marie community as RYTAC. It is located on the St. Mary’s River in the heart of Sault Ste. Marie.

With this gift, the college is charged with revitalizing the property for the benefit of the college programs and students and to provide seasonal access to waterfront and tennis activities for the youth and families of Sault Ste. Marie. The vision for this plan is to establish a Centre of Excellence in Tennis for our students and the community at large, and a Waterfront Centre to support programming at the college, specifically the Natural Environment and Outdoor Studies programs.

This revitalization of the property will include the construction of a new waterfront building and the renewal of 8 tennis courts. The proposed new Waterfront Building is 5,000 square feet, with the teaching and learning space totalling 3,864 square feet.  The second aspect of the project is to renew the tennis courts to the level of a centre of excellence offering participants tennis for recreation, fitness and competitive sport. This will require remediation and resurfacing of 8 courts, bringing them to tournament standard. The courts will be multipurpose surfaces that are lined for tennis, pickle ball and progressive tennis, providing flexibility in usage and appeal to racquet sport learners and players of all ages. The courts will also be wheel chair accessible providing opportunities for the growing number of athletes playing wheel chair tennis in our area. The Waterfront and Tennis Centre will be accessed and used regularly by all students of Sault College.

It is important to note that in addition to the buildings and tennis courts there is no equipment left in the facility.  All equipment needed for the Waterfront and Tennis Centre will have to be purchased new.  Future funding opportunities with community partners will assist with these acquisitions. At present, these discussions are underway with options and timelines being explored.

Other funding sources for equipment and watercraft will be explored in conjunction with our community partners. These include but are not limited to:

Sault College is not eligible to apply for grants under Ontario Trillium Fund and Ontario Sport and Recreation Communities Fund. As a partner with the newly incorporated Sault Ste. Marie Tennis Association, Sault College can be involved in applications. These applications would not be capital in nature and would focus on equipment for the Tennis Centre.

Expected Outcomes and Benefits

Sault College is one of only a few publicly funded colleges in Ontario to own a Waterfront and Tennis Centre. Revitalizing this facility will assist in attracting students to Sault Ste. Marie, provide a laboratory for existing natural environment programs as well provide a waterfront recreational centre for the community and visitors to enjoy.  It is anticipated that the Waterfront and Tennis Centre will be operational for eight months of the year.

Benefits of the Project:

Additional rationale:
The new Waterfront and Tennis Centre will enhance the student experience at Sault College. Applicants seeking a post-secondary destination will be attracted to Sault College because of the strategic directions it has taken that put the student experience first.  In our core promise to students, we want them to say “I get the education I want and more”.  Our college is successful when our students can make this statement. Enhancing the student experience will include providing opportunities to develop leadership and employment skills, learn and practice healthy work/life balance, and apply theoretical knowledge in living laboratory settings. This project will move this strategy forward.

In order to reach our goal to become the destination college in Canada and to respect the provisions of this philanthropic gift we are confidently moving forward with a plan to renew this property and restore its potential. We are tasked to rebuild the waterfront structure which is wood frame, two story and in serious disrepair. The building is empty. All equipment and watercraft were sold or removed by the previous owner. The tennis courts, although some are usable, are in need of resurfacing. A beach volleyball court is overgrown and unusable. It will be restored to a tennis court. Some equipment has been purchased by the college over the past two years to enable use of the courts in the summer months. 

In its prime, the St. Mary’s River Boat club/ RYTAC was a gathering place for the young and the young at heart from across the community for social, waterfront and tennis activities. The St. Mary’s Boat Club was established in 1902. It is situated on the St. Mary’s River in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario on a traditional trading route on the lands of the Ojibway First Nation.  It was destroyed by fire twice but both times through the efforts of dedicated community volunteers, it was rebuilt. Through the years it became the home of competitive and recreational tennis, rowing, sailing, paddling and summer outdoor camps for adults, children and youth. The facility and its programming provided seasonal employment for youth and young adults helping them to develop leadership and employability skills. After the Rotary and YMCA Tennis and Aquatic Club was closed in April 2012, it was purchased by a charitable foundation and gifted to Sault College in April 2014.

After the demolition of the existing structure a new multipurpose single story structure will be constructed. The new Waterfront Centre will provide single storey access to waterfront labs, docks and services for college students and community members. It will house a wet lab space for safe water and river-studies activities; a teaching and learning space for the care and repair of watercraft; a multipurpose room for group learning and social gatherings; a small kitchen and servery; accessible locker rooms and showers; and offices for safety personal and program staff. The centre will also serve as headquarters for regattas and tennis tournaments providing services during these activities.

The second aspect of the project is to renew the tennis facility to the level of a centre of excellence offering participants tennis for recreation, fitness and competitive sport. This will require remediation and resurfacing of 8 courts, bringing them to tournament standard. The courts will be multipurpose surfaces that are lined for tennis, pickle ball and progressive tennis, providing flexibility in usage and appeal to racquet sport learners and players of all ages. The courts will also be wheel chair accessible providing opportunities for the growing number of athletes playing wheel chair tennis in our area.

As there is no equipment remaining at the centre since it was sold, all purchases of equipment will be supported through fund raising and grant writing in partnership with volunteer based sport groups who have become incorporated. Sault College is not eligible to access grants from either the Trillium Foundation or the Ontario Sport and Recreation Communities Fund but can be a partner with an eligible group. These applications would not be capital in nature and would focus on equipment.

These partnerships will build the sustainability of the operation and provide opportunities for competitions and social activities to be held at the centre that would generate tourism and community involvement.

In partnership with the newly incorporated Sault Ste. Marie Tennis Association, who is affiliated with Tennis Canada and Tennis Ontario, we will continue to develop and build a Tennis Centre of Excellence. The model of the centre will follow the Long Term Athlete Development Plan for the Sport of Tennis in Canada. ( LTAD: Tennis Canada 2012)   This partnership will ensure the sustainability and growth of tennis in our community as a lifelong activity for recreation, fitness and competitive sport and generate tourism for our community.

The College will launch competitive tennis as a club sport in the fall of 2017. Colleges in Ontario do not usually offer varsity or club tennis, however, it is offered in Ontario secondary schools under the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations. College bound tennis players will be recruited to attend Sault College and compete while pursuing post-secondary education. The program will provide opportunities to compete in post-secondary schools in Michigan including Lake Superior State University, Finlandia University and Muskegon Community College, to name a few.  Sault College presently has the infrastructure to support this sport, offering men’s and women’s singles, doubles and mixed doubles.  This would provide opportunities for 20-30 athletes in a 8 week competitive season. This program together with the youth tennis program will build the capacity of the centre and volunteer base.  The centre will host 6 tournaments per year bringing community and college teams with their support services to our community for weekends in spring, summer and fall. This could result in an excess of 200 visitors to Sault Ste. Marie per tournament.  The potential economic impact to our community would be an additional 1,200 visitors per year (6x200) or in excess of $900,000 (1200 x 3 days x $250/day).

Enrolment sustainability and growth:
The 2015-2020 Strategic plan of Sault College identifies declining enrolments due to demographic changes and challenges as a critical issue. College operating funds from the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities are based upon the number of students we have enrolled and as such we have declared that enrolment growth and retention of students to be integral to our strategic and operational approaches.  Our plan is to focus on attracting and retaining students from Sault Ste. Marie and beyond.

Sault College in the 2015-16 academic year, had enrolled 2467(November 2015) full time students. With declining demographics the college must attract applicants and students from outside of the Algoma district. Presently, 40% our students are from outside of the area. Our goal is to attract 10%(247-250; with 50% coming to NEOS programs) more to our college by providing access to co-curricular, extracurricular and adjunct activities (student and summer employment) that will enhance their superior post- secondary experience. As local and regional demographics continue to impact the number of college bound applicants, Sault College will need to attract and retain a larger number of non- local students. Our goal is to sustain 50% of the college population from outside of the Algoma area while continuing to maintain our present enrolment figures.

This project will help us achieve our goal by:

In summary, the Waterfront and Tennis Centre at the former RYTAC site in Sault Ste. Marie will enhance the college’s ability to attract applicants from outside of the Algoma district. It will attract newcomers and tourists to Sault Ste. Marie through tennis and waterfront activities. Children and youth of Sault Ste. Marie will develop interests in natural environment and outdoor studies through their exposure to such topics at day camps and special events. They will be encouraged to pursue further education in these fields. The community will look to the centre for educational and training events on site that further their understanding of environmental impacts on river health and fish and wildlife habitats. 

We are confident that there will be many other benefits to the community through this project and look forward to the development of our new centre with the assistance of the Provincial and Federal Governments and the generous donors that step up to help support our Capital Campaign.

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