Northland Rugby Union's new home on Pohe Island is quickly taking shape, with completion expected as soon as July next year.
The facility, which will replace the union's current base - an old freezing works on Kioreroa Rd - will feature clubrooms fitted with a bar and cafeteria, six changing rooms, a state-of-the-art gymnasium and offices.
Constructed by local company HILLCON Group, the project would likely cost up to $7 million. All funds had been acquired through outside sources, not from the Northland Rugby Union (NRU).
About $2.5m was received through Minister for Sport and Recreation Grant Robertson's $265m sports recovery package announced in May. A further $1.5m came from the Government's "shovel-ready" projects funding, which aimed to fast-track initiatives to support job creation.
About $600,000 had come from the Whangārei District Council and NRU chief executive Cameron Bell confirmed he was in discussions with the Northland Regional Council for further funding.
Bell, who could barely contain his excitement at the facility's progress, hoped to see all the buildings roofed by Christmas and ready to open by early September 2021 at the latest - given the women's Rugby World Cup teams arrived in the region on September 13.
"It's going ahead faster than what we thought ... to say we're excited is an understatement," he said.
By 2022, the facility's clubrooms would be used by Old Boys' Marist Rugby Club, which was set to leave its current premises on Port Rd.
The six changing rooms were also being designed as unisex, suitable for both male and female athletes.
In light of Northland's historical difficulty retaining players, Bell said the facility would bolster the NRU's ability to keep its rugby talent in the region.
"We make the most of what we've got but when you're a young male or female athlete and you're looking to commit to a province, the facilities are a huge incentive," he said.
"If you're a Northland athlete here within the region or you've moved away to another school, we want you to come home and we want to be able to give you facilities that are equal to anything in New Zealand."
Bell accepted some would question the importance of building such a facility when sports clubs, in particular, were so financially challenged by Covid-19. However, he said if the funding was going to be spent, it might as well be in Northland.
"If the funding that we've received wasn't invested in Northland, it would have been spent somewhere else in New Zealand.
"We're behind most other provincial unions in terms of what we've got, now we are coming up to par, if not ahead, of all the others out there."
Bell said he was looking forward to discussing options with other codes around how they could use the facility, as opposed to it sitting empty until the NRU or other rugby clubs were ready to use it.
Asked whether the facility would result in better performances on the field by the Taniwha and Kauri, Bell was hopeful but believed its true value related to player development and retention, revenue-building opportunities and its ability to host large-scale school and community events.