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Rideau Sports Centre continues to grow out of shadow of old tennis club

Midweek Mugging: Multimillion dollar makeover of the Rideau Tennis Club continues under CEO Nicki Brigland, with hot yoga the latest addition to the now public property

The sudden closure of Rama Lotus yoga studio earlier this year, after 25 years in business, left clients and instructors with a sense of loss of their community.

Nicki Bridgland, CEO of Rideau Sports Centre, decided to see what she could do to help the six displaced instructors and multiple yogis -- her plan culminating this week in opening a new hot yoga room at the centre.

"A lot of people had their foundations at Rama Lotus and so to see an institution like that close is devastating," Bridgland said in an interview with

"They were unique at that studio because they were teaching not only hot yoga...but also the bikram series and it has a lot of followers that really believe in that style of practice," she said, which she notes is done at high temperatures.

While classes officially started on Monday of this week, a symbolic class including all of the former Rama Lotus instructors is set for Wednesday.

In a news release, former Rama Lotus instructor Karoline Eder said she was overwhelmed when she heard news RSC and Bridgland were looking to re-build the community.

“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing when Nicki told me she’d like to bring all of us into RSC’s Yoga Studio," she said, adding her relationship's with colleagues and students was important and was worried everyone would end up divided across the city.

"Nicki brought us all back together and now we’d like all of our clients to find us at RSC."

Bridgland's own passion for yoga began almost two decades ago at Rama Lotus during her first business startup, eventually becoming a staple in her life both personally and professionally.

"I think it's the only thing that could help me stay focused in the present moment, to really not get ahead of myself and staying in the now," noting it's a much more popular sentiment now than when she first started.

"Being able to focus on mindfulness really, that isn't just on the mat, it's 'how do I conduct myself in business?', 'how do I react to things that are happening?' There's a softening and settling."

While hot yoga is a new addition to RSC, the centre has offered yoga classes since January 2018, a planned part of the centre's expansion that's seen Bridgland invest over $3 million in the four-acre property and make it open to the public.

The overhaul since 2017 has seen a massive change to the former exclusive and membership-based Rideau Tennis Club, which was not open to the public during its 105-year history.

Inclusivity has been at the forefront of the Bridgland's vision for the centre, as there are no membership fees and a pay-as-you-go model, something she felt was very important.

"People still walk or bike by here and think they're not allowed on the property," she said, noting the history as an exclusive tennis club for high-paying members.

"It's a very different culture than what's been here," she said.

Being open to the public also allows the centre to utilize its location, according to Bridgland, right on the Rideau River at the Adàwe Crossing, a footbridge that allows access to and from the Sandy Hill side of the river.

What Bridgland has dubbed the "downtown playground," also includes a sports dome, a renovated tennis dome, dek hockey facilities, a gym, basketball and volleyball courts, camps for kids and other classes, along with an outdoor pool.

All of the facilities and classes, along with the Bridge Public House restaurant, have been added to the 17,000 square foot building since 2017.

This is the second successful venture for Bridgland after founding the Ottawa Sport and Social Club in 2003, growing the number of users from a few hundred to 10,000 weekly. For new entrepreneurs who wanted to get started, she offered a quote from author and philosopher Howard Thurman.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it," she said, adding they should try to make money through their passion rather than looking for something strictly with dollar signs in mind.

"For me the only reason why the businesses I've had have been so successful is because I have a personal passion about it and because I care."

More information on facilities, classes and service can be found on the centre's website.

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