Remember the old RYTAC? At its prime it was a popular spot for people of all ages for tennis, sailing and other waterfront activities. The club actually has a very interesting history in how it came to be in 1902. When it was first formed, it was known as the Sault Boating Club.
A committee was formed and met in March of that year. The purpose of the meeting; the desirability of having a place where those who took an interest in aquatic sports of all kinds, and those who had a social interest, might find a common ground. It was well attended with 75 people showing up to learn about the plan.
At the meeting no location was picked but some liked the idea of locating it on the riverfront near downtown, others wanted it further west. The newly formed committee would do its research and report back.
In April of that same year, the name Sault Boating Club and location were picked. Property just west of Pine street was chosen due to the lack of current in that area. The club house would cost $2,500 to build and by time it was furnished and the lot purchase was taken into consideration, the total cost fell somewhere in the neighbourhood of $4,000.
Construction began with a guarantee by the contractors to push the work through to completion of the project inside of six weeks. The officers of the club hoped to be ready for their formal opening and house warming on July 1st.
In the meantime boats needed to be purchased, and it is probable that the quarters or their storage can be prepared by the middle of the next month. The committee is also taking in hand the preparation of the grounds for lawn tennis and bowling.
It was in the summer of 1902 that the club was first opened by the small Vanderbilt Society of Sault Ste. Marie. The clubhouse at that time was sumptuous. The original clubhouse was much more grand than the clubhouses that followed.
In those years social activities would commence on May 24th with a formal dance and end on Labour Day in a like manner. During the summer, lawn parities were many, tennis was popular and canoes took off for Topsail Island.
The city’s finest used the facility as an exclusive club at first. It later was called the St. Mary’s River Athletic Club and by 1909 the name became the St. Mary’s River Boat Club.
Rowing and aquatic activities assumed a tremendous role in 1920 when the restricted membership saw a change in rules. The older members moved on to the area of the Country Club and the Boat Club was left for the younger set.
The club was a beehive of activity in 1925 when a team was sent to participate in the Henley Regatta. Two years later, another foursome travelled to Western Canada under the leadership of Alan Broughton.
In 1937 women became members for the first time. The new ruling was designed to put new life in the club. Two years later on a crisp morning in October, fire completely destroyed the club taking in its wake records, trophies and 18 or 20 canoes and shells.
Three years later, a new club house was built at the cost of just $10,000. It wasn’t anywhere close to the original building, but served its purpose. To many the club was a place to congregate every summer evening. The new club house barely hardly had time to get on its feet before the outbreak of the Second World War.
In May 1967, fire once again destroyed the club.
The boat club would eventually be re-built and placed in new hands, that of the Rotary Club and YMCA.
The Rotary YMCA Tennis and Aquatic Club better known as RYTAC was opened through joint efforts of the Sault Ste. Marie YMCA and Rotary Club of Sault Ste. Marie.
In April 2012, it was announced that the YMCA could no longer afford to run the facility, now just a former shell of it’s glorious beginnings. The property was put up for sale.
Sault College acquired the property in 2015 and have since launched a new campaign to bring back the boat club.
On April 15th, 2016, Sault College will kick off a city wide campaign to restore the Waterfront and Tennis Centre to its fullest potential. Sault College, the present owner, is moving forward with a capital campaign and plan to revitalize the property and bring it back to its former glory.
“An Evening in White” will take place at Sault College and will feature an unbelievable Sault College culinary feast prepared by Willow restaurant, live music and vintage photo displays of days gone by on the water front. Dress for the event is white cocktail party attire. Tickets are $120 and available by contacting Willow restaurant at (705) 971-2104 or Financial Services at (705) 759-2554 ext. 2300.
The facility and its programming provided seasonal employment for youth and young adults helping them to develop leadership and employability skills. The capital campaign will run for the year with several fundraising events and opportunities for interested community members to become involved either by participating as a volunteer or making a personal or corporate donation.
Sources – Museum Archives, Museum Reference Files