Tauranga's status as the home of national sevens rugby may be in jeopardy if an urgent $5.3 million expansion of an elite Tauranga sporting facility does not happen.
That's according to the Tauranga City Council's community facilities arm, Bay Venues Limited, which is seeking ratepayer funding to expand the University of Waikato Adams Centre for High Performance in Mount Maunganui.
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The expansion involved building a new gym in the northern carpark off Miro St. At 1258sq m, the floor area would be twice as big as the current gym, which would be repurposed for office space adjoining the new building.
A neighbouring property, owned by Bay Venues, would be levelled to replace lost carparks. Designs for the expansion were yet to be finalised.
The centre was a training home for 47 Olympic athletes as well as the New Zealand Rugby All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens' 60 staff and athletes.
Bay Venues chief executive Gary Dawson told a council Policy Committee meeting this week the contract with NZ Rugby went until the end of the Tokyo Olympics later this year.
Dawson said that while there had been no threat from NZ Rugby to leave, capacity issues meant it was a risk.
"To mitigate the risk of losing NZ Rugby, we need to urgently build this gymnasium.
"We are trying to be more proactive and want to make sure we give them no reason to think about leaving."
Bay Venues chief operating officer Justine Brennan said the threat came from other districts that were investing or looking to invest in high-performance sports facilities - Upper Hutt, Napier and New Plymouth among them.
She said there was not enough space for NZ Rugby's current operations, with staff making do with cramped offices, let alone for growth.
While NZ Rugby's staff and athletes were happy to be based in Tauranga, she was concerned the organisation could not make "a long-term commitment to the centre in its current form".
Planning for the expansion started in 2016, the year the centre opened, Brennan said.
If the council went ahead with the expansion and NZ Rugby decided to leave anyway, she said Bay Venues should still be able to rent out the spaces but "not to organisations of the same mana".
Dawson said the new gym would treble the number of Tauranga-based developing athletes in the centre's Adams Academy programme from the current 70 to 80 to 240.
There were also 80 sports management and sports science jobs based at the centre, as well as 12 research students.
Tony Philp, NZ Rugby's high-performance sevens manager, told the Bay of Plenty Times after the meeting the Adams Centre had been great for its teams since it centralised in Tauranga two years ago.
"As we head into the Tokyo Olympics, we are at capacity within the facility with 46 athletes and 16 fulltime management and support staff so we are supportive of the Adam's Centre proposal to expand.
"When we begin to prepare for the next Olympic cycle we will conduct a thorough review that covers people, programme and facilities and, as part of that, we would look at whether the current base is able to meet our needs to ensure we're in the best shape for the 2024 Olympics."
The council voted unanimously to consider funding the Adams Centre expansion in its draft Annual Plan 2020-2021, along with renewals funding top-up for the Greerton Aquatic and Leisure Centre rejuvenation project.
Councillor Jako Abrie said the funding would have to make it through a prioritisation and public consultation process to be approved.
If approved, the funding would add another $700,000 to what the council had previously budgeted for Bay Venues in that financial year.
Bay Venues also requested funding for two other major new capital projects, but these were put off until the next Long-Term Plan.
Those projects were a $2.26m storage and operations hub at Trustpower Baypark and a $2.4m high-intensity fitness training studio at Clubfit Baywave.
A project to build an exhibition centre at Baypark, for which the council had previously budgeted $4.9m, was also deferred to 2021.
Bay Venues major projects
New funding requests to be considered in Annual Plan 2020-21:
- $5.3m to expand the University of Waikato Adams Centre for High Performance (new project)
- Extra $1.25m for Greerton Aquatic and Leisure Centre renewals. Upgrade work will be done at the same time. Other funding has been previously approved.
Major projects deferred for consideration in Long-Term Plan 2021-31:
- $2.4m to expand Clubfit at Baywave to include a High-Intensity Interval Training facility (new project)
- $2.26m to build an operations and storage hub at Trustpower Baypark (new project)
- $4.9m for an exhibition centre at Baypark (previously approved)
Source: Tauranga City Council