Sports centre plan attracts $5m pledge — but with a catch

Friends of the Waitaki Event Centre (from left) Kevin Malcolm, Adair Craik, Deidre Senior and Denise McMillan gather at Centennial Park, their preferred location for a new sport and event centre. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN
Friends of the Waitaki Event Centre (from left) Kevin Malcolm, Adair Craik, Deidre Senior and Denise McMillan gather at Centennial Park, their preferred location for a new sport and event centre. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN
Plans for a new indoor sport and event centre in Oamaru have been given a significant boost in the form of a $5million anonymous pledge.

But it comes with a condition — the community must match it by raising another $5 million.

Project supporters Deidre Senior, Kevin Malcolm, Denise McMillan and Adair Craik have formed Friends of the Waitaki Event Centre — an independent group and soon-to-be-registered charitable trust — to launch a fundraising campaign.

They are also urging the community to submit to the Waitaki District Council’s long-term plan, which asks residents how much the council should contribute to the project.

The projected cost for a six-court stadium in Oamaru is $24million, and plans also include conference facilities, a creche, catering kitchen, cafe and bar facilities, a gym, storage space and spectator areas. The council is asking for feedback on its contribution, giving the options of capping it at $10 million, $12 million, $14 million, or not contributing anything.

Mr Malcolm said the project, and $5million pledge, was "exceptionally exciting".

It would be the biggest development in Waitaki for many years, and because a May 2024 opening was being worked towards, the $5million community fundraising would need to be confirmed by the end of this year, he said.

Concept plans, funded by another anonymous project supporter, would be uploaded to the Sport Otago website on Monday.

"We’ve taken the initiative to have the concept drawings made and developed, and they will form the basis of a fundraising drive and consultation with the community and the user groups."

Mrs Senior, principal of Weston School and North Otago netball stalwart, said there were no regulation-sized indoor netball or basketball courts in Oamaru. The two-court Waitaki Community Recreation Centre had served its purpose for more than 30 years, but the district struggled to attract tournaments to Oamaru because it was not big enough, even though it was well-placed in the South Island.

A bigger facility would also open up opportunities for other sports, such as futsal and volleyball, to be offered in the community.

"We’re really aiming to put pride back into the Waitaki and ensure we’ve got the very best facilities for our youth and for our community," Mr Malcolm said.

But the project was about more than just sport — it was an opportunity to showcase the Waitaki and attract more people to the district, Mrs Senior said.

In 2017, the council commissioned a feasibility study that outlined options for a new facility, looking at 28 different sites. Locations were still being discussed, but the preferred option was Centennial Park.

A working group, of which Mrs Senior, Mr Malcolm, Mrs McMillan and Ms Craik were members, was formed last year. The group toured other facilities in the South Island this year, including Waimate’s two-court facility, and the benefits were obvious, Ms Craik said.

"We can see how supported and successful that venue has been for its community — and that’s where we’d like to take the Waitaki district as well."

There was a lot of support for the project expressed in the community and Mrs Senior urged people to put it in writing to the council.

As of Thursday, the council had received 74 submissions to its long-term plan. Consultation closes on May 21.


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