Tauranga's High Performance Sports Centre is set to become a "leading provider of testing and research into sports science and human performance."
The centre has partnered with the University of Waikato, after stage one of the strategic partnership was approved by city council yesterday.
The centre, which houses the country's largest high performance gym, opened its doors at Blake Park in Mount Maunganui in January.
The University of Waikato's tenancy space would include a purpose-built laboratory, and a state-of-the-art environmental chamber, with the latter providing some New Zealand-firsts. The laboratory would be used for the purpose of sports science and research as well as athletic performance testing.
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The high-tech environmental chamber, to be built inside the laboratory, will be able to control specific heat and humidity requirements. It will also offer the capability to simulate a high altitude environment.
The environmental chamber will be the only one in the country with the capability to control three factors - heat, humidity and altitude, said centre manager Justine Brennan.
The size of the proposed chamber was also an advantage, she said, as it would be big enough to accommodate several athletes at one time - it is "leading edge" in terms of both its size and the technology the University of Waikato will be using.
The environmental chamber would be used for research, training, recovery and acclimatisation. Temperatures of 40 degrees and humidity of 90 percent, for example, would give the opportunity to acclimatise athletes to the conditions they often have to face in other parts of the world.
The chamber would also be used to research human athletic capabilities under those conditions.
Work was underway on configuring the university's 265 square metres of space within the centre to its high-tech specifications. The laboratory and chamber would be ready for use by the end of April.
The university's space will be staffed by academic professionals specialising in sports science and human performance, with that group including PhD students carrying out research.
"This partnership will be transformational for the centre. It will add exponentially to what we can offer, taking us from the country's largest high performance gym to a leading provider of testing and research into sport science and human performance," Miss Brennan said.
"This partnership really puts the centre in the same league as the AUT Millennium Institute, which also has a partnership with a tertiary education provider. We are providing world-class facilities for the nation's best athletes. The research capability we will have will be on par with the best in the country," Miss Brennan said.
University of Waikato Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Alister Jones said this was an opportunity to be a facilitator of post-graduate sports science education within a high performance sport environment in the Bay of Plenty.
The University of Waikato is already the tertiary partner at the Home of Cycling Trust Avantidrome near Cambridge, which has attracted many high performance sports.
"We already work closely with many athletes there, and now we will be able to offer them additional expertise just a short distance away in the Bay of Plenty," Professor Jones said.
Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said this high profile project has got the attention of organisations that support the industry of sport; the business end of the sector.
Sports educators underpin the success of NZ athletes on the world stage, and this partnership will further enhance Tauranga City as a destination for world champions and aspiring athletes to grow their careers, Mayor Crosby said.
Already confirmed tenancies at the High Performance Sports Centre are the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union, the New Zealand Rugby Union (Sevens), and Body In Motion physiotherapy and sports medicine.
Bay Venues board chairman Peter Farmer said his board was very pleased to support the High Performance Sports Centre project to completion.
"It has been a fast paced, multi-stakeholder project involving very close team work and collaboration with Tauranga City Council and numerous national and regional sports organisations.
"The strategic partnership between Bay Venues and The University of Waikato will now ensure the High Performance Sports Centre can fulfill its potential in becoming a leading national and international centre of excellence for sport.
"This agreement is a long term partnership between Waikato University and Bay Venues Ltd/Tauranga City Council, and is yet another example of the development of first class amenities within Tauranga City," he said.