Fifty years of fun: the Nepean Sportsplex

The Woodroffe Ave. facility plays host to athletes, artists and artisans, seniors, kids, and well, everyone

Sportsplex pool area. Photo Credit City of Ottawa

When it first opened its doors in 1973, the Nepean Sportsplex was the largest recreation complex in Canada.

Half a century later, much has changed, but the multipurpose city-run facility, located on Woodroffe Ave., has remained the City of Ottawa’s largest recreation centre.  

“To reach 50 years just goes to show how visionary the City of Nepean was to take this risk and build such a diverse facility,” says Nepean Sportsplex portfolio manager Dale Johnson.

Despite its name and reputation as a first-rate athletics facility—the sportsplex hosts more than 30 regional, provincial, national and international sporting events each year—it is much more than that. It’s also home to 35 (and growing) special events per year, serving a grand total of more than 1.5 million people annually.

To see why, one only has to run through the list of the sportsplex’s athletics amenities: an aquatic centre with a 50-metre Olympic pool with diving towers and springboards; a 25-metre family pool; a children’s wading pool; a therapeutic whirlpool; three ice rinks, including the Yzerman and the Allen J. MacDonald arenas; a 10-sheet curling centre; a 3,000 sq. ft. weight room and fitness centre; four squash courts; a studio and gymnasium. Outside, there’s a large outdoor sports field area, featuring two baseball diamonds; a soccer field; the Minto sports field turf; a lawn bowling turf and pavilion as well as outdoor fitness trails.

“The Nepean Sportsplex has so much to offer,” says Johnson, who has been working with the facility since 1999. For non-sporting-related events, there are 18 meeting and banquet rooms ranging from 468 to 8,640 sq. ft., and 62,000 sq. ft. of convention space, “which has become known as a top-notch location to hold trade shows and special events including the annual Christmas craft show,” Johnson adds. Like the Sportsplex, the City of Ottawa Christmas Craft show will be celebrating its 50th year in 2023. “We plan on making this year’s shows one of the greatest,” says Johnson. The twice-annual Ottawa Parent and Child Expo also calls the Nepean Sportsplex home.

For seniors, there’s a seniors’ centre which offers activities for retired adults ages 50+. Upcoming events, listed on the volunteer-managed webpage, include Canada Day festivities, an upcoming meeting of the arts and social club, an ice cream social, and a fraud prevention presentation by the Ottawa Police Service.

The Nepean Sportsplex is also home to the Nepean Visual Arts Centre, which offers specialty arts classes taught by accomplished artists—painters, potters, illustrators, sculptors, photographers—in custom studio spaces for participants of all ages and abilities. Participants also have the opportunity to display their artwork at the arts centre’s studio gallery. The Nepean Visual Arts Centre’s sister facility, the Nepean Creative Arts Centre, offers instruction in many disciplines of music, theatre, dance, and has arts-specific studios available for rent, including a black box theatre, recital hall, set construction workshop, and meeting rooms.

Over the past half century, Nepean Sportsplex has had a huge impact, says Johnson. “It’s been a central place for bringing people together to participate in sports, events, cultural and community programs. So many friendships and memories began at Nepean Sportsplex and we’ve lined up a few initiatives to celebrate this special milestone.”


Celebrate 50 years at the Nepean Sportplex

Here’s how you can get involved in the festivities

Share a memory Submit a favourite story or photo involving the Sportsplex from the last 50 years and be entered for a chance to win a prize.

Trivia contest Test your knowledge of the Nepean Sportsplex for a chance to win a prize.