Sport Northland's involvement with sports facilities goes right back to the late 1970s, when one of the organisations that we evolved from (the Northland Recreation and Sports Trust) was established to build a community stadium in Whangārei.
They added a community fitness centre (Kensington Fitness) in the mid-1980s and since then, Sport Northland has redeveloped the two facilities over time into what they are today – thriving community facilities that offer something for everyone.
While the ASB Stadium is a community facility supported by operational and long-term maintenance subsidies from Whangārei District Council (WDC), Kensington Fitness is operated by Sport Northland as a stand-alone commercial business (no WDC subsidy), where any operating surplus is sunk back into Sport Northland's community operations.
Operating a commercial fitness centre aligns particularly well with Sport Northland's overall vision of 'all Northlanders leading better lives through involvement in play, active recreation and sport'.
Getting people active through Kensington Fitness certainly fits the 'active recreation' aspect of this vision, and of course the surplus achieved from the operation of the facility supports the sustainability of Sport Northland as a charitable trust.
There are also many fantastic stories of how Northlanders have had their lives changed through being part of this facility. One such Northlander is Jon Bare of Whangārei, who wanted to share his story with others.
"I started running and boxing earlier this year at home after weighing in at 104 kilograms, which is the heaviest I have ever weighed. I still had a reasonable base fitness due to doing a lot of hardcore land-based fishing, but in between fishing trips my weight was slowly increasing. I just felt unwell, lacked motivation, felt groggy, experienced poor sleep patterns along with a very low self-esteem," Bare said.
"I was also going through a tough time with chronic recurring depression which I have suffered from for most of my life. Exercise has always helped me with managing this over and above everything, but unfortunately after making some good gains with my running, I suffered from a debilitating case of shin-splints and could no longer run."
This took Bare to Kensington Fitness, where he was still able to continue with his cardio thanks to the zero-impact machines available, such as the elliptical trainer.
"At my first assessment I weighed in at bang-on 100kgs," he said.
"With the addition of strength training as well (and a good diet), body fat just melted off me. Two and a bit months down the track, I'm weighing in at 91.5kgs and it's still dropping.
"My general wellbeing and state of mind has improved tenfold from what it was months ago. I can honestly say I just can't go without having fitness and healthier eating habits in life now!"
While the ownership and management of sports facilities is just one part of what Sport Northland does, it contributes hugely to our overall outcomes.
And to have an accessible, centrally-located fitness centre with loads of free parking and a huge green space at its backdoor is certainly a drawcard for local Whangārei residents.
See you there!