A proposed $10 million development at the Regional Sports Park could transform it into a world-class facilty.
Sir Graeme Avery launched his vision on Friday night of what could become AUT Millennium Hawke's Bay.
He was one of the driving forces behind the Millennium Institute of Sport which opened in 2002, growing and developing into AUT Millennium. Future Olympians will increasingly come from the regions, Sir Graeme said, yet the regions lacked the facilities to develop sports talent and boost health and well-being in the community.
The proposed development, first conceived by Sport Hawke's Bay talent development manager Marcus Agnew, could transform the regional sports park into a world-class facility, Sir Graeme said.
The Sileni Estate owner will chair Hawke's Bay Community Fitness Centre Trust which has been established to build, own and operate the $10 million initial stage facility which will run on the mantra "Be the best you can be".
The facility would include an indoor synthetic surface with six-lane sprint track and pole vault dome, a high-performance strength and conditioning gym for sports and wellness development, and an indoor sports hall. Patrons could use a gym and sports medicine centre, before enjoying a coffee at the on-site cafe.
Schools from Wairoa to Central Hawke's Bay would have the opportunity to use the facility which Sir Graeme hoped would open in mid 2018. Schools could book the facility for week-long camps and use the proposed lodge for accommodation.
It will leverage off the success of the Auckland-based AUT Millennium, which will collaborate with Eastern Institute of Technology to deliver sports science and health and wellness programmes. The region would benefit from this collaboration along with input from Sport Hawke's Bay, and Bruce McTaggart's Hawke's Bay Sports Events & Education Consortium. The programmes going into preschools and schools would focus on health and wellness, some would even encourage children to climb trees again and play bull rush. Sir Graeme was adamant that something had to be done to promote better living now, although it could take two decades to see the results.
"The world can't sit back on the obesity epidemic - no government will be able to afford the cost of care or the complications if effective programmes are not put in place now."
The facility would be the "headquarters" from which different research-led programmes would be delivered to those at preschool age, to the elderly throughout the region.
"I stress the project is much more than a bricks and mortar building - it's about the programmes that will flow from it for all ages in the community - preschool to geriatrics like Gaby and I."
He and his wife would be "waddling along" using the outdoor fitness equipment installed around the limestone trail.
Not only would people benefit from the facility, but sports would benefit as athletes "rubbed shoulders" with each other.
He envisaged that some programmes would also run out of Pettigrew Green Arena, and said he would definitely support Cycling New Zealand and programmes that would run at the indoor sports centre and velodrome.
"[It] will be an incredible asset to the region. This is a collaborative project for the whole region."
The facility, which would take up a lot of green space at the sports park, would have significant "economic development gains".
Sir Graeme said it would provide new jobs and business opportunities and he was passionate about creating a sports business development hub where students could be mentored.
Earlier in the day, Sir Graeme shared the proposal with the Hastings District Council asking it to make a $4 million contribution to the funding appeal. He also asked the council to grant long-term lease of the land for the facility at a "peppercorn rental", and to provide security to the bank providing bridging finance. The council will make a decision whether to financially support the project when it deliberates on its annual plan. He did not approach Napier for funding.
Napier City Council issued a statement last night saying it "welcomed" the announcement.
Deputy mayor Faye White said she felt confident it would be well supported by Napier ratepayers, and would complement the indoor multi-sport facility proposed for Napier.