New aquatic and sports facilities in the Thames area have moved a step forward with the decision by our Council in October 2022 to proceed with a feasibility study to look at criteria and possible locations for a new pool and sports fields. Centennial Pool is sited on a urupā (burial ground) and Rhodes Park sports fields get flooded on a regular basis. The feasibility studies are being conducted after extensive public consultation with sports clubs and leaders, Ngāti Maru representatives and a public survey in June 2022 to ascertain community needs and views. The needs assessment clarified key areas of public concern. Issues for both Sports Fields and Aquatics Facilities Thames’ population is forecast to become increasingly older and this needs to be considered as part of future sporting provision. Thames low median incomes mean affordability is key, both for ratepayers and users. Thames Sports Fields Flooding of Rhodes Park is a major risk - there is positive support for finding the best possible new site that is not at risk of flooding. The quality of existing sports facilities at Rhodes Park is perceived as poor. 88% support improved sport facilities in Thames. Fairness and equity between sports codes is a major issue that needs to be addressed. There is positive support across the codes for a multi-sport hub. Any development must be comprehensive: providing a range of quality facilities and amenities, including playing surfaces, changing rooms, toilets, carparks and transport connections, social space, active space, seating and play amenities. Aquatic Facilities In the past, the Centennial Pool attracted 30,000 visits per annum, but this has declined in the COVID era. Learn-to-swim accounts for 30% of visits, followed by squad swimming (22%) and concessions (13%). Location is critical, we need to identify a site that is both the best site for a swimming pool and is accessible to the community. There is a clear call for quality indoor all-year provision which provides opportunities for learn-to-swim, personal swimming, aquatic training and casual play. As Thames’ population ages, it is important to provide warm water facilities that are accessible to all. At the minimum, a local Thames facility is needed. There is also good evidence to support Thames being the location for a sub-regional facility including Hauraki. Currently 40% of visits are from out of Thames. Discussions are needed with Hauraki District Council on potential partnership. If a sub-regional facility goes ahead, we need to consider extending aquatic sport, hydrotherapy, and leisure features. Feasibility studies The feasibility stage for planning each of the two projects will carefully balance the opportunity of any development to provide wider regional value/benefit with affordability and viability. It will involve: testing options, analysing costs and understanding benefits. Key dates Dec 2022: drawing up a long list of options Jan-March 2023: agreeing on a short list of options April-May 2023: community consultation on the options After that a business case will identify the strongest option for aquatic and sports facilities.