University partners with High Performance Sports Centre

The University of Waikato is to be the tertiary partner to the Tauranga High Performance Sports Centre.

Stage one of the strategic partnership was given approval by Tauranga City Councillors on Tuesday, 22 March.

The benefits of the partnership will be significant, says Justine Brennan, manager of the centre, which opened its doors at Mt Maunganui’s Blake Park early this year.

“This partnership will be transformational for the centre. It will add exponentially to what we can offer, taking us from the country’s largest high performance gym to a leading provider of testing and research into sport science and human performance,” Miss Brennan says.

The University of Waikato’s tenancy space will include a purpose-built laboratory, and a state-of-the-art environmental chamber, with the latter providing some New Zealand-firsts. The laboratory will be used for the purpose of sports science and research as well as athletic performance testing. The high-tech environmental chamber, to be built inside the laboratory, will be able to control specific heat and humidity requirements. It will also offer the capability to simulate a high altitude environment.

Miss Brennan says the environmental chamber will be the only one in the country with the capability to control the three factors – heat, humidity and altitude. The size of the proposed chamber is also an advantage, she says, as it will be big enough to accommodate several athletes at one time – it is “leading edge” in terms of both its size and the technology the University of Waikato will be using, she says.

The environmental chamber will be used for research, training, recovery and acclimatisation. Temperatures of 40 degrees and humidity of 90 percent, for example, will give the opportunity to acclimatise athletes to the conditions they will often have to face in other parts of the world. The chamber will also be used to research human athletic capabilities under those conditions.

University of Waikato Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Alister Jones says this is an opportunity to be a facilitator of post-graduate sports science education within a high performance sport environment in the Bay of Plenty.

He says the University of Waikato is already the tertiary partner at the Home of Cycling Trust Avantidrome near Cambridge, which has attracted many high performance sports.

“We already work closely with many athletes there, and now we will be able to offer them additional expertise just a short distance away in the Bay of Plenty,” Professor Jones says.

He says the University’s partnership with the High Performance Sports Centre builds on the institution’s commitment to the Bay of Plenty over many years. The University is currently leading the development of a Tauranga CBD tertiary campus.

Work is underway on configuring the university’s 265 square metres of space within the centre to its high-tech specifications. The laboratory and chamber will be ready for use by the end of April.

The university’s space will be staffed by academic professionals specialising in sports science and human performance, with that group including PhD students carrying out research.

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby says this high profile project has got the attention of organisations that support the industry of sport; the business end of the sector.

Sports educators underpin the success of NZ athletes on the world stage, and this partnership will further enhance Tauranga City as a destination for world champions and aspiring athletes to grow their careers, Mayor Crosby says.

Already confirmed tenancies at the High Performance Sports Centre are the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union, the New Zealand Rugby Union (Sevens), and Body In Motion physiotherapy and sports medicine.

Miss Brennan says the High Performance Sports Centre is an example of how collaboration can achieve transformational outcomes.

She says Bay Venues and Tauranga City Council are to be applauded for their “astute and strategic” thinking in getting the centre off the ground.

“The Bay Venues board and city councillors need to be congratulated for realising the window of opportunity was there to transform the old, vacant former Mt Cosmopolitan Club into something that can, in turn, transform the city.

“This partnership really puts the centre in the same league as the AUT Millennium Institute, which also has a partnership with a tertiary education provider. We are providing world-class facilities for the nation’s best athletes. The research capability we will have will be on par with the best in the country,” Justine says.

Bay Venues board chairman Peter Farmer says his board is very pleased to support the High Performance Sports Centre project to completion.

“It has been a fast paced, multi-stakeholder project involving very close team work and collaboration with Tauranga City Council and numerous national and regional sports organisations.

“The strategic partnership between Bay Venues and The University of Waikato will now ensure the High Performance Sports Centre can fulfill its potential in becoming a leading national and international centre of excellence for sport.

“This agreement is a long term partnership between Waikato University and Bay Venues Ltd/Tauranga City Council, and is yet another example of the development of first class amenities within Tauranga City,” he says.