Although more sponsor contributions are still required for the facility to reach its full potential, construction is well under way at the Sir Graeme Avery-led Community Health and Sport Centre project.
The monumental vision, based around the recently named EIT Institute of Sport and Health, is already initiating a reversal of the brain drain out of Hawke's Bay.
The EIT Institute will be the main facility driving research and creating programmes for delivery throughout the region, and although aligning with other existing community centres, it will be the focal point and centre piece for health and sport in all of Hawke's Bay, with stage 1 due for completion mid-2019.
Certainly in the area of sport performance, any aspiring young professional has historically had to leave Hawke's Bay for other regions and facilities to chase the dream of working in a high-performing environment.
The flow-on impact of that for our wider community, means fewer industry experts connecting with our schools, local sports groups, and community health organisations.
However, things are starting to change. The new EIT Institute of Sport and Health at the Sports Park, with its region-wide programmes, is already gaining significant excitement and interest from professionals around New Zealand and overseas.
The lack of a university has often been touted as a handbrake to growth within our region, with talent from all walks of life heading for more exciting opportunities, highlighted most visibly by the number of Hawke's Bay rugby players historically playing for the likes of Otago.
The new EIT Institute is already creating that exciting drawcard back to the Bay, to attract and retain more expertise.
Added to the attraction and brand of Hawke's Bay, is the partnering of EIT itself with the staff of the Hawke's Bay Community Fitness Centre Trust, to deliver community health and sport programmes at and from the new institute facility.
EIT is the tertiary provider for Hawke's Bay and the East Coast, and in recent years has grown an impressive range of programmes to offer. Its partnership with the trust has exciting potential for Hawke's Bay.
The vocational opportunities provided by top class Polytechnics like EIT is gaining credence, and especially attractive if partnered with a world-class facility offering research projects and exciting work experiences and pathways – all the while located in the beautiful Bay.
With the growing sprawl of congestion around our country's biggest city, the regional lifestyle is becoming an increasingly attractive proposition.
EIT's growth in study options, including post postgraduate study, aligns well with the new Institute across a wide range of disciplines and levels.
It's not just the sport and health studies, but all the other faculty disciplines from Business and Computing, to Agriculture and Cooking, Maori and Pacifica, to Marketing and Media – all potential areas for students to be involved in, from work placements through to advanced post-graduate research.
In this modern digital age, good practical skills are becoming more in demand, so great offerings for locals, and outsiders to engage in the region-wide project and develop the applied skills they need.
The community programmes will cover the age spectrum, with healthy lifestyles education from pre-schools through primary, athletic talent development and on to activities for the elderly.
There are many existing programmes and groups already working hard for their people in Hawke's Bay, but through the new EIT Institute and support from EIT research and workforce development, the alignment and standard of programmes on offer will be enhanced for the region.
With the prospect of Avery's vision of a Centre of Excellence in Human Performance and EIT joining forces, greater support and coordination can also be achieved with other regional groups such as the DHB, Sport Hawke's Bay, iwi, councils, and smaller existing community health and sporting organisations.
Planned programmes with pre-schools and primary schools later this year will be an important catalyst for enhanced collaboration among key regional groups.
Together with the new EIT Institute, EIT itself can attract and retain more high-calibre students, including from overseas, and so better prepare a quality workforce ready for action.
By working together we can make an incredible Health and Sport Complex for Hawke's Bay to be proud of, a beacon for wide-reaching programmes, and a great addition to the Great Things Grow Here"" brand of Hawke's Bay.
• Marcus Agnew is the health and sport development manager at Hawke's Bay Community Fitness Centre Trust and is also a lecturer in sports science at EIT.