There’s been lots of discussion lately in the gymnastics community about what’s going to happen to the Bunnerong Gymnastics Centre in Heffron Park.
If you or your family use or have ever been to the facility, you’ll know it’s in dire need of an upgrade!
Read on to learn more about the plans, how the new centre compares to the current one, where it fits into the bigger picture, when construction will start and what the Heffron Centre will mean for the community.
Does the gymnastics building need an upgrade?
The current gymnastics building is a former warehouse from the 1940s and 50s era with a number of ongoing issues including roof leakage, poor amenities and change room facilities, a lack of storage and no air conditioning. The building is at the end of its useful life and Council has recognised this in proceeding with a brand-new facility to ensure the future of gymnastics for our area.
What is the new Heffron Centre?
The Heffron Centre is a planned new building in Maroubra’s Heffron Park comprised of:
- A gymnastics centre
- Indoor sports court suitable for basketball, volleyball, badminton, netball and futsal
- A new home for the South Sydney Rabbitohs (initially proposed for Robey St), including their headquarters, training facilities and community outreach arm Souths Cares.
Is the project approved?
Yes. The Development Application for the Heffron Centre was approved on the 4 March 2021 by the Sydney Eastern City Planning Panel.
How much will the gymnastics and indoor sports centre cost?
The combined cost of the gymnastics centre and indoor sports centre is $25.7M.
Who’s paying for the gymnastics and indoor sports centre upgrade?
The new sporting facilities are being funded as follows:
- $3.1 million funded by NSW State Government for the multi-purpose sporting facility;
- $3.6 million funded by Randwick Council through the recent rating increase levied within Randwick City;
- $19 million in loan funding borrowed by Randwick Council.
How much bigger will the new gymnastics centre be?
The existing gymnastics facility is approximately 975m2 while the planned gymnastics centre will be approximately 1,300m2 or 33 per cent larger. This includes a larger floor plate for gymnastics activities and larger facilities for changing rooms, storage and office and administration space.
Is the size of the new gymnastics facility appropriate?
Council has planned for the new gymnastics centre to service the needs of the local community from grass roots through to competitive level. The size proposed for the new facility is appropriate to service existing members and to grow participation into the future.
Interest we have received from potential future operators has been strong indicating the size and quality of the new facility is appropriate.
The new gymnastics centre is designed as a district level sporting facility for the surrounding community.
Why are all three elements included in the same building?
The Heffron Centre will be located in one building with dedicated spaces for the South Sydney Rabbitohs, indoor sports centre and gymnastics centre. It was decided in 2016 to locate the three uses into one building with three dedicated areas to reduce the footprint on Heffron Park.
One building instead of three buildings also means building costs are reduced and services such as parking can be shared. It also creates opportunities for partnerships and linkages between the different users and means the Heffron Centre will be a dedicated community sports facility where aspiring athletes and community members are brushing shoulders with professional sports players.
How long has Council been planning to upgrade the gymnastics and indoor sports centre?
Council has been planning an upgrade since 2004 as part of the development of a plan of management for Heffron Park. Lots of other great improvements have taken place including a new Tennis Centre, kids pedal park, synthetic sports field and various clubhouse upgrades. The gymnastics centre and indoor sports centre upgrades are the final pieces of the Heffron puzzle.
Through long term planning and delivery of sporting facilities, Heffron Park has become the envy of many Local Governments in metropolitan Sydney. We have no doubt the new gymnastics and indoor sports facility will further improve the experience for families and individuals across the Randwick LGA.
Some have said that the rate increase was only supported by the community on the basis a State level gymnastics facility would be built, is this true?
There was no commitment to build a State level gymnastics facility.
In 2017, we consulted with the community to gauge support for a rate increase to fund new infrastructure. An extract from council communications at the time stated:
“Indoor sports centre and gymnastics centre: The Heffron Park Masterplan identifies the need to rebuild the existing gymnasium and indoor sports centres located along Bunnerong Road in Maroubra. Both of these buildings are dated and are no longer effectively servicing the community. Significant expenditure is required to construct new modern facilities to serve the community into the future.”
In addition to the indoor sports centre and gymnastics centre, the rates increase is funding various other projects to support our community including the following:
- La Perouse Museum upgrade
- New public plazas in Randwick and Kingsford town centres
- Increasing accessibility by building footpaths on both sides of streets in priority locations
- South Maroubra Surf Club Toilets upgrade
- La Perouse Headland Toilets upgrade
- Mahon Pool Amenities Building upgrade
- Randwick Community Nursery improvements
- New youth and cultural hall in Matraville.
- Yarra Bay amenities building upgrade
- Malabar Junction amenities building upgrade
- Southern Suburbs Youth Facility
- Clovelly Community & Childcare Centre upgrade
- Malabar Jet Boat Rescue Boat Storage
- Coogee Oval Grandstand
Why aren’t you building a state level facility? Did Council ever promise to build something bigger?
While many sporting codes would love to have State level facilities and attract elite athletes from across NSW, we have the difficult job of balancing the needs of all sporting codes. In 2020, over 20 different codes and over 90 organisations shared the use of Heffron Park.
During the management planning process for Heffron Park, several requests were made for the inclusion of State level facilities, including but not limited to gymnastics. Despite the requests, including for gymnastics facilities of 4,000m2 and 3,000m2, Council has never promised a facility of this size.
What has informed the design of the new gymnastics facility?
The Gymnastic specification was informed by sources including Gymnastics Australia, Gymnastics NSW and the International Federation of Gymnastics, Council’s available site and budget constraints.
Previous studies conducted on similar reference facilities within the Sydney catchment have shown higher participation rates within smaller floor areas than that which is proposed in the new Heffron Centre.
While many sporting codes have had to compromise and share a multi-purpose space, gymnasts will enjoy an exclusive facility within the Heffron Centre which reflects Council’s commitment to gymnastics within the area.
Has the centre been designed to gymnastics standards?
For most sporting codes there are specific design standards and specifications. Unfortunately, at present there is no set of endorsed or available design standards for Gymnastics facilities in NSW. The Gymnastics Centre component of the Heffron Centre has been designed accordingly to accommodate a variety of gymnastics disciplines (including Artistic, Rhythmic, Aerobic and Acrobatic). A number of comparisons have been conducted to ensure an appropriately designed facility to accommodate community and district level gymnastics. The final internal layouts of the Gymnastics Centre will be established by the appointed lessee of the facility.
Who will run the new gymnastics centre?
This decision has yet to be made. Local councils are required to go through a tender process when selecting an operator for public facilities. The process must be fair and transparent to ensure the community gets the best value and experience. A similar process was recently undertaken for the Heffron Park Tennis Centre.
Council has been open and upfront about this requirement with current gymnastics providers Bunnerong Gymnastics in all discussions concerning the new gymnasium over the past decade.
We have called for expressions of interest for operators interested in running the gymnastics centre and indoor community sports centre components and have received five strong applications. A formal tender process will now be undertaken.
The successful tenderer is required to demonstrate financial capacity to meet a $1.2M capital investment for the fit-out and provision of furniture, fittings and equipment for the Gymnastics Centre
Gymnastics NSW has been consulted in relation to the development of tender specifications.
Was Bunnerong Gymnastics consulted?
All sporting codes and stakeholders were involved in early planning discussions and consultation for the future of Heffron Park.
Council officers facilitated several meetings with Bunnerong Gymnastics from 2013 in which it was noted and confirmed by Bunnerong Gymnastics that Council would be tendering the new lease and licence for the operation of the buildings.
Given the size and scale of the facility, Council is required to ensure a high level of governance and probity when making decisions in relation to the specific design and operating model of the facility. This includes the appointment of a probity advisor.
To avoid any conflict of interest now that the project is underway, Council consults with Gymnastics NSW to gain critical feedback in relation to those matters unique to the sport of gymnastics.
Are ratepayers paying for the South Sydney Rabbitohs Community High Performance Centre?
Council is only contributing $3 million towards the high performance centre. This contribution is being made in recognition of the important work undertaken by Souths Cares in our local community.
The Souths Cares charter is to support disadvantaged and marginalised youth and their families through the delivery of capacity building programs addressing education, training, health and employment needs.
The high performance centre will allow Souths Cares to double the size and reach of its community programs.
Souths Cares will be based in the new centre.
The remaining $22.7 million in funding for the high performance centre comes from $18.7 million in Federal and State Government grants and $4 million being contributed by South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Who will own the South Sydney Rabbitohs Community High Performance Centre?
Despite Council only contributing $3 million in funding, the entire building asset worth $25.7 million will be owned by Council and its ratepayers.
When will construction start?
Construction will commence in mid 2021 and it will likely take about 15 months.