“Jobs of the Future” is a series focusing on career paths, local job opportunities, programs, and tales of success that highlight North Bay's diverse job market.
Next Monday, July 26th will be a day Kurt Tempelmans Plat has been looking forward to for a long time.
The KTP Racquet Club will officially open the doors to it’s own facility in North Bay.
“It’s exciting to finally get this show on the road,” says Tempelmans Plat who has been working on finding a space for the club to call home for the better part of the last three years.
“It’s been a pretty wild journey to get here,” he says.
Tempelmans Plat has put together his knowledge of coaching and running programs and his business degree to create this club.
He started as a junior coach and eventually became a program coordinator at the North Bay Nordic Ski Club for 10 years and then moved over to the tennis club for another six, running programs and working the front desk.
“Out of the blue I just did a badminton camp one summer because I had an extra week and I played, so I figured I could run a camp,” says Tempelmans Plat.
“There was a bit of interest and the talk afterward was that it would be cool if there were a club or rep program in the city. So we took those six kids and ran that program once a week for an hour and a half at different gyms in the city and we did that for a year. We played the northern Ontario circuit and from there it grew pretty fast.”
Tempelmans Plat says they ended up with around 30 kids who got involved in the competitive side, and he was able to run camps more regularly in the summer, all while earning a business degree.
“I didn’t really need to be working full-time at that point so it was just a fun thing on the side that I just kept growing,” he says.
“I remember about three or four years ago, I got exposed to this kind of facility down south. People were making a living by doing this year-round and I had just never thought of that being a legitimate thing. It never really crossed my mind because it wasn’t something I was exposed to up here. So as the program grew and as I finished school, I really had no specific ambition for my business degree. I was glad that I had it and knew that I could do anything within that business realm, but I was really having fun up here with this. It just kept growing to the point where it was more and more sustainable and eventually it came to this point where we were able to build this facility.”
But it wasn’t an overnight project as Tempelmans Plat looked for a long time to find the right space, eventually landing at the North Bay Mall on Lakeshore Drive in a space that was no longer being used.
“It was an old shell of an abandoned store, pretty much what you would see in the movies where everything was dusty and falling apart and there’s old signage from the store that used to be there,” says Tempelmans Plat.
“Ultimately from start to finish, my dad and I did the vast majority of the work that had to be put into the place and I had a few buddies that lent a hand here and there. We had to take down the dropped ceiling and we painted every wall and any drywalling that had to be done, we did that as well. We ran electrical and set up the lighting and fixed the plumbing.”
Tempelmans Plat says they needed to hire contractors to do the bigger jobs such as sprinkler work and some of the tougher plumbing, while he took care of the esthetics trying to lay out the space.
“It’s definitely had its up and downs to get the renovation process going,” he says.
“The longer I was doing it, the more big projects were coming up and you start to lose sight of that light at the end of the tunnel. But finally, you start to wrap things up and it starts to feel a lot more real, that it was actually happening. I’m excited to finally get the doors open and fill the courts for the first time.”
Tempelmans Plat says they have been able to do a few tours for some of their members and the reactions have been nothing but positive.
“We tend to get one of two reactions, either it's those who know what to expect and they come in and they are still surprised with how different it looks in person rather than just the photos we have posted. Then there’s those who don’t really know what to expect or who think that it's just a school gymnasium, they are usually pretty impressed or surprised to see what’s there and what they could be getting out of being members and so they are just raring to go.”
Tempelmans Plat says it is a unique type of facility for being in northern Ontario as it includes five badminton courts with the ability to convert them into pickleball courts. As well as having a dedicated table tennis area, a workout area, an upstairs and a downstairs lounge, a changing facility with showers, a study room and a small store for equipment purchases.
“There is something for everyone,” says Tempelmans Plat.
“It’s very community-oriented, there’s restaurants nearby and it’s such an inviting space to spend your time beyond just playing on the courts. It’s a facility that inspires the ability to play, learn, socialize and compete; it really is an encompassing place. We’re building that sense of community through this facility and it shows people that it is more than just a backyard sport or a gym class sport, I think this place shows the air of professionalism.”
He says it’s a long way from having to set up and tear down in a different gym around the city every week, which is how the club was operating throughout its seven years of existence.
“It’s so different to be able to play in a dedicated facility, rather than a school gym. We’ve always been based on having a competitive junior program. We have a successful track record in both the northern Ontario circuit and the provincial circuit, but the idea is that this is so much more, because we can provide different types of programs to all ages and all skill levels and you can spend the day here, you can learn to play and develop into a competitive player, we really have everything you could be looking for,” says Tempelmans Plat.
He adds that badminton is a growing sport in Canada and having a facility like this in North Bay will only help drive that point forward.
“Globally it is huge and I think there is a lot of opportunities to grow all of these sports here. We’re providing the only professional facility north of the GTA and so it’s going to be very exciting not only for North Bay but for all of northern Ontario,” says Tempelmans Plat.
“I think this is going to be crazy with the amount of potential we have here, considering what I’ve been able to do in school gyms for the past seven years with just junior badminton and being able to build a competitive program, I can only imagine what we can do for recreational players of all ages. And not just for badminton but for pickleball players which is a booming sport in North America and I think just bringing everyone together is going to be so unique. I think that we are one of less than 20 badminton clubs that have a facility like this in Ontario. We’re also one of the few in Canada that have badminton, pickleball and table tennis all in one space and I think we’re going to do a lot of good things to really promote the sport overall.”
While there is potential to promote the sport, there is also the potential to create some jobs.
“I think for me, the dream, whenever that will happen, will be to have another full-time coach on staff to work with me through all of my programs,” says Tempelmans Plat.
“Then hopefully some part-time or even full-time staff to manage the front desk side of things. As the owner I do enjoy the business aspect and I really enjoy being on the court coaching and so I want to make sure I have a healthy balance of each, but I think doing both in the future can turn into a daunting task and so I definitely see room and opportunity to bring people in and get them working.”
Owning and operating the only facility in North Bay that is dedicated to these sports should give a boost to the local economy within the West Ferris area as there is potential to host tournaments, while also providing an attraction not just for people in North Bay, but for people from the outlying areas as well.
Templemans Plat says he’s proud of everything he has accomplished here and says it all came down to being inspired while at a tournament a few years ago down south where he saw a facility similar to the one he has built.
“We now have one of the few places in the province dedicated to these sports and that was just inspired by seeing one of those other facilities a few years before,” he says.
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