In Practice / SPORTS VENUE: From Olympics to Everyday
Richmond Oval in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada
Time and again in cities around the world, venues that were constructed to host Olympic sporting events have faced significant challenges when it comes to remaining vital once the Olympic Games have come and gone. But the city of Richmond, British Columbia, Canada, aimed to buck that trend.
When the Winter Olympic Games came to Vancouver in 2010, the Richmond Olympic Oval became the first Olympic speed-skating venue ever designed for long-term use. Today the iconic building, situated on the banks of the Fraser River, has become an international center for sport, health, wellness and entertainment. In fact, a whole new urban waterfront neighborhood has sprung up around the Oval.
"The plan from the outset was to design and build a world-class venue that would serve as the home of long-track speed-skating during the 2010 Olympics, but more importantly, be an enduring center for sport, fitness and culture long after the eyes of the world had moved on," said Andrew Clark, a manager at the Richmond Oval. Clark said they now welcome more than a million visitors a year.
International design firm CannonDesign worked on the Richmond Oval project, and they point out that the Oval's level of convertibility and multi-sport use is unprecedented in high-performance sport buildings. Clark explained how the Oval started its intensive conversion process following the 2010 Games. "It included, but was not limited to two Olympic-sized ice rinks, fitness studios, basketball courts, a 26,000-square-foot fitness center, a 200-meter running track, a sport climbing wall, 110-meter sprint lanes, a sports medicine clinic and a high-performance training center. Upgrades and additions have continued to best meet the needs of our membership and athletes."
Other amenities at the Oval include an indoor rowing and paddling center, batting cages, a yoga studio and a retail store. The ice rinks can transform into multiple configurations, and Clark said they're utilized by the Richmond Rockets speed-skating club, as well as various figure-skating clubs and minor league hockey associations.
The Oval also plays host to many outside events, which Clark said take place primarily Friday through Sunday. "This includes everything from hockey tournaments to provincial climbing competitions to the Wheelchair Rugby Vancouver invitational and international Judo competitions. The size of the crowds vary depending on the sport, but we are also seeing more people taking in the competitions through our online streaming."
The ROX (Richmond Olympic Experience) is another big draw, where visitors can relive inspiring Olympic and Paralympic moments. There are interactive touch tables and a theater for film screenings, as well as hundreds of artifacts, including medals, torches and uniforms from past Olympic heroes. State-of-the-art simulators allow visitors to fly off an Olympic ski jump, paddle a whitewater kayak course, carve a line in a sit-ski slalom race or zip down an Olympic bobsleigh track. Interactive challenges allow guests to test their skills on interactive hockey and soccer nets, measure their vertical or long jump or even broadcast an Olympic event.
According to Clark, The ROX serves as a unique tourist destination and is well-attended by school groups. "The Oval offers a very unique school program that is integrated with the British Columbia School Curriculum. When students attend, they complete their learning in the ROX and also get to experience some unique and cool sports such as rowing, speed skating and wheelchair basketball." School field trips—as well as birthday parties—can be customized to include the Olympic Museum, skating, climbing and court games.
The Oval also offers meeting rooms, multipurpose rooms and a VIP hosting suite available to rent for meetings, conferences, receptions or corporate retreats. Clark explained how the Olympic legacy serves as a huge source of inspiration, leading to requests for many types of private events. "The Olympic Experience Museum is a great location to hold a corporate function. The artifacts, interactive exhibits and sport simulators provide a unique and inspiring element to any event." The O' Café allows visitors to grab a bite while also providing on-site event catering services.
The Oval offers numerous opportunities for fitness and wellness programs, nutrition services and personal training. There are sports camps, community sports and sports leagues. These include baseball, basketball, badminton, climbing, golf, gymnastics, hockey and skating, martial arts, rowing, table tennis, soccer, tennis and volleyball. There are monthly or annual memberships available, as well as drop-in and day admission rates. "While the majority of our members attend the Oval for fitness-related activities, we also have incredible uptake on our community sport and high-performance programs and camps," said Clark.
The building is also a model for sustainable design, earning LEED Silver status and generating operational cost savings across its lifespan. The Oval's ceiling is made of salvaged pine beetle-kill wood, believed to be the largest surface ever covered in this once-discarded wood.
The Richmond Oval has become a great asset to the city, and has proven to planners and designers that with some foresight and ingenuity, these specialty venues can remain vital to their surrounding communities well into the future. RM