Vancouver Secrets: Who knew the Richmond Oval was so Cool?

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Almost exactly one year ago, I was inside the Richmond Oval as Canada’s Kristina Groves sped across the finish line for an Olympic silver medal in ladies’ 1500-meter speed skating.  The thousands of Canada fans packed into the bleachers erupted into cheers – cowbells clanging and red mittens waving wildly.  It got so loud that the brand new Oval, thousands and thousands of square feet of glimmering steel, glass and wood, actually shook.

But then what happened?  I was never really sure what became of the Oval after the Olympic crowds left town.  Was this beautiful multimillion-dollar facility on the banks of the Fraser River, paid for at taxpayers’ expense, just sitting there? Was it locked up, opened only on occasion for  skating events?

The answer, of course, is absolutely not.  I discovered that over the weekend when I hopped on the Canada Line SkyTrain and took a trip out to Richmond to check out the Oval.  It turns out that the place has been completely transformed and is now a bustling and top-notch 512,000 square-foot fitness centre open to the public.  Here’s a great overview from the CBC:

An entrance fee of $13.50 for adults gets you access to the facility (alternately, you can sign up for a yearly membership for $58 a month for adults).  Once inside, the first thing I noticed is that the huge skating track is gone, replaced by a maze of brand new courts and rinks.

Two Olympic-sized hockey rinks were in full use, players crashing into the boards.  Just down the way, I counted a whopping 10 basketball courts and 13 volleyball courts, nearly all filled with teams battling it out on a Saturday morning.   Not to mention 3 FIFA-regulation indoor soccer fields and a whole area dedicated to the fine art of table tennis.

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But that’s just the start.  I climbed the stairs to the balcony that rims the Oval and discovered endless rows of brand new weight-lifting and cardio equipment.   There were stairclimbers and treadmills and bench presses and universal gyms – all with fantastic views of the Fraser River through the Oval’s massive windows.  In fact,  I’d have to say that the Oval might just be the most picturesque gym I’ve seen  in Vancouver.

I’m sure that there’s a lot more that I missed on my visit.  I didn’t have time to check out the rowing and paddling centre or the yoga and fitness class studios.  I actually left feeling kind of jealous of the lucky Richmondites who have the chance to use the Olympic-quality Oval all the time.

Anybody else a fan of the Richmond Oval?  Any regular members out there?  Do you enjoy the new facility?  Please comment.

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