See original story with the Ottawa Citizen here: http://ottawacitizen.com
Fans fill the bleachers for an International Rugby match between Canada and USA at Twin Elm Rugby Park on Saturday, August 22, 2015.MIKE CARROCCETTO / OTTAWA CITIZEN
Over the past four decades, Twin Elm Rugby Park has been home to all manner of rugby competition, including international test matches involving Canada, New Zealand and England.

But the Twin Elm clubhouse — in southwest Ottawa, near Richmond — is badly in need of repair and is the subject of a public fundraising campaign to undertake about $100,000 in upgrades.

Owned by four Ottawa area rugby clubs, Twin Elm is managed by a volunteer board.

New Park president Lee Powell has hopes of restoring Twin Elm to its former glory, when it rose out of the farm fields near Richmond in the mid-1970s.

“We’re trying to dig it out of the mess it’s in and back to the life it had,” Powell said.

Team Canada fans react to Team Canada winning their game against Team Fiji during their IRB Pacific Nations Cup rugby tournament game at the Twin Elm Rugby Park in Ottawa on Wednesday, Jun. 5, 2013. MATTHEW USHERWOOD / SUNMEDIA

On March 24, 7:30pm at the Senate Tavern on Bank street, Powell and the board will unveil a three-year plan for the rugby park, which has multiple uses beyond rugby. Along with five grass fields and 12 change rooms, the clubhouse has two lounges, a bar and seating of about 3,000 for the main rugby pitch.

The building has been a popular and inexpensive locale for wedding receptions and other events – that is until the past year, when the roof was leaking so badly the operators couldn’t accept bookings into the soggy mess.

The renovation to-do list includes:

Roof repairs: $33,000
Water system: $15,000
Collapsing stairwell: $10,000
Interior renovations: $8,000
Facility equipment: $20,000
Boiler replacement: $7,000
Electrical system upgrades: $7,000

Once the roof is fixed, the plan is to lease solar panels atop the building, an upfront sum that should cover most of the cost of the roof repair.

There is also the matter of about $60,000 in debts from bills not paid.

A gofundme page has raised about $7,500 so far.

The campaign will also seek sponsors and other donors. Sponsors have already stepped up to provide paint, laminate flooring materials and the transition to LED lighting, which will reduced hydro costs.

Twin Elm’s location is a blessing and a curse. The rural setting is attractive and serene, but roughly 35-kilometres southwest of downtown Ottawa, making it beyond the reach of OC Transpo. It’s only accessible by car or chartered bus.

It does get used. Powell estimates 15,000 to 20,000 people visit Twin Elm in a given year, mostly schools and local clubs. The park has been home to provincial high school rugby and lacrosse championships, gaelic football and hurling and last summer it was the scene of the national German Shepherd Dog Show Championships.

Checker, a German shepherd, and his owner Shanon Rawlinson competed in the 2017 Canadian German Shepherd Dog Championships at Twin Elm Rugby Park.  JEAN LEVAC / OTTWP

“There isn’t another place around that is this inexpensive and has the fields and facility for use for multiple events and sports,” says Powell, who plans to make the second floor wheelchair accessible as part of the renovations.

An outdoor picnic area is available to clubs or churches who don’t want to take on the expense of renting the indoor facility.

Canada’s national team has played here numerous times, as have rugby nations like New Zealand, Wales, France, Fiji and the USA.

Legendary rugby captain Al Charron played numerous games at Twin Elm for the Ottawa Irish and Canada. Just this week, the sparkling new Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre opened in Langford, B.C. Twin Elm won’t aim that high.

“It is sad to see the state of disrepair and mismanagement Twin Elm has fallen into,” Charron said. “I hope we can sort it out, not only for the future generations of rugby enthusiasts here in our area but also for the current and past generations of supporters to go out and play or watch.”

Team Fiji player #21 Aporosa Kenatale gets ready to throw the ball into a scrum with Team Canada during their IRB Pacific Nations Cup rugby tournament game at the Twin Elm Rugby Park in Ottawa on Wednesday, Jun. 5, 2013.MATTHEW USHERWOOD / SUNMEDIA

Powell would like to see the park and indoor facility diversify even further. There are discussions to set up a turf field for local field hockey teams.

Down the road, there is the possibility of selling the naming rights to Twin Elm. First, the proprietors want to put the building into a state of repair that would spark a company or individual’s interest in attaching their name to it.

wscanlan@postmedia.com

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