This guy owns the Rosebud Motel from Schitt’s Creek and helped Jamal Murray get to the NBA
Late last month, Schitt’s Creek swept the comedy category at the Emmys, receiving seven statuettes during a socially distant banquet at Casa Loma. Meanwhile, about 2,000 kilometres south, at the NBA bubble in Florida, Kitchener-born basketball player Jamal Murray strung together some impressive playoff performances against the Los Angeles Lakers, establishing himself as an NBA star. What do these seemingly unrelated sources of Ontarian pride have in common? An Orangeville native named Jesse Tipping, who owns the Rosebud Motel from Schitt’s Creek and co-founded the Athlete Institute Basketball Academy, where Murray sharpened his skills before making the NBA.
You’re from Orangeville, a small town about an hour’s drive northwest of Toronto.
Yep, I grew up there and played basketball in high school. I dreamed of getting a scholarship to an American school, but that didn’t work out. I ended up studying kinesiology at Brock, then transferred to Waterloo and majored in liberal studies. My parents ran a community centre back in Orangeville, so after graduating in 2010, I put my kinesiology background to use and started coaching strength and conditioning. I trained a lot of athletes there, everyone from competitive swimmers to cross-country skiers.
Around that time, in 2010, there was a huge trend of Canadian kids going to play high school basketball in the States, but some of the training institutions weren’t exactly reputable. Student-athletes would graduate in debt or finish without a diploma. So my high school friend Adam Hoffman and I had an idea: what if we set up an elite academy in Orangeville where kids could get an actual education and hone their on-court craft. The kids could live nearby, train with qualified coaches, work with trainers and study at Orangeville District Secondary School. Then, in 2012, we put together our first team with kids from Ontario, Nova Scotia and British Columbia, with the goal of getting them college scholarships. That’s how the Athlete Institute Basketball Academy was born. But we still needed somewhere for the players to live.
And that’s where the Rosebud Motel comes in?
Yep. I needed a place big enough for a team of young athletes and support staff to live. Obviously, that’s not an easy thing to find. I looked at various properties in the area and saw that an old motel was available. It was located on a beautiful seven-acre property along the Nottawasaga River, about a 10-minute drive from the Athlete Institute. It wasn’t called the Rosebud Motel yet. It didn’t have a name. But the building itself was a little run down. It had been used as long-term housing for about 15 years. Most of the tenants smoked in their rooms and the drywall was all patchy. To be honest, it was a little bit scary. I bought it, but in the end, I had to spend a couple of hundred grand on renovations. We were already facing an uphill battle getting people to move out here, and having them live in a horror motel wasn’t going to work.
When did Jamal Murray come into the picture?
In 2013, at the age of 15. He already had a local reputation as a major talent, so when he and his family chose Orangeville, it was a big deal for us. He was just so driven. One day, I remember seeing him in the gym, practicing step-back three-pointers. But from, like, half-court. Just a ridiculous shot. He must have tried it 50 times and I thought, Why are you practicing this so much? When are you ever going to shoot this shot? Of course, the next weekend, we went to a tournament and he sunk that same shot to win a game. I just thought, Oh my God, this kid’s special.
How does it feel seeing him in the NBA, dispatching Kawhi’s Clippers from the playoffs and going dribble-for-dribble with the Lebron James-led Lakers?
I’m just so happy for him. It gives me butterflies.
I can imagine. So how did the hotel end up in Schitt’s Creek?
When I bought it in 2012, it was already on some sort of Hollywood location database. It had been used in A History of Violence with Viggo Mortensen and 11.22.63, starring James Franco. I’ve been told that it works for film and TV because it’s not on a major highway, so you don’t have to deal with traffic. Plus, it has a sort of ambiguous age. You can put vintage cars out front and it can look like the fifties or the sixties. Anyway, I didn’t think about any of that until I got a call about a year later. It was a location scout, calling to see if they could do a pilot for a show called Schitt’s Creek. It paid pretty well and I could make it happen, so I agreed, with no clue the show would become an international phenomenon.
So where did you have to put the athletes?
The production company was kind enough to put the kids up in a nearby Best Western while they were doing the filming for about a month a year. The players got their beds made and had a huge breakfast spread every day, so they weren’t complaining. Then, in 2017, we built our own state-of-the-art dorm rooms on the campus of the institute, so there were no booking conflicts after that.
Are you a fan of the show?
Massive. It’s hilarious and creative and the characters are out of this world. How could you not be a fan? At the end of the first season, I watched them shoot and had a chance to meet the cast. My wife was pregnant at the time, so when the cast returned the next year, they were excited to meet the baby.
I read that the motel has become a tourist attraction.
Since the show won all those Emmys, it’s been crazy. There’s been a constant stream of cars, people taking photos. Unfortunately, some people got inside. It’s locked up now and there’s a sign outside that gently reminds people to treat it with respect. I think my best experience was a couple of years ago, though. I saw a car with three women in it parked outside, so I asked them whether they were fans of the show. They said, yes, they’d met in a Schitt’s Creek chatroom. One was from England, one was from Connecticut and the other was from California. They had a full-size cardboard cutout of another friend who couldn’t make it.
And I also read that you’re selling the place.
That’s right. I just don’t have a purpose for it right now, given that Schitt’s Creek ended and won’t be filming there. It’s just sitting empty, and I’m sure there’s someone out there who can put their heart and soul into it.
Seems like a good time to sell…
Honestly, I was planning on meeting with my real estate agent next month, but all the interest has sped up my timeline. There’s been lots of media coverage. There’s even a GoFundMe page of fans trying to raise money to buy it. I plan to list it pretty soon, but I’ve already gotten some interest on the private market. I don’t know how much the show has increased the value of the motel, but all the exposure can’t hurt. We’re going to use the proceeds from the sale to support the Athlete Institute.
What are your plans for the post-Rosebud future?
I’ll be focusing on the academy. Covid has presented a lot of challenges. We’ve been successful in creating a bubble for our players and coaches, but we need to keep that up throughout the fall. We don’t want our athletes’ futures to be impacted. It’s hard on them without games, without college coaches from the States being able to come up and recruit. But the main thing is that they’re safe and supported and getting an education right now.