Where some saw overgrown grass, and a dilapidated building, Ignite Sport saw a future that included a new home for their organisation.
Ignite Sport Hub recently opened its doors at Lower Hutt’s Bell Park, five years and $1.5m after volunteer-based sport and youth development organisation, Ignite Sport, decided to tackle the project.
Ignite Sport bought the former Lower Hutt City Association Football Club clubrooms through community donations and raised extra money to renovate and refurbish them.
Previously, the derelict building, and Bell Park where it sat, was relatively unused aside from the odd dog walker.
Today it’s a different story - the revamped premises house 16 Ignite Sport staff and every day more than 50 rangatahi walk through the doors to take part in programmes designed to support their hauora and help keep them active.
“It’s been a dream realised to see young people here every day and neighbours come out of their homes and spend time at Bell Park as families,” says Ignite co-ordinator Kevin Goldsbury.
Ignite delivers a range of programmes for secondary students in 13 schools across the Wellington region, including those disengaging from education, former refugee youth and young people with disabilities. All programmes have the same goal - to build confidence and resilience and, most importantly, to provide hope.
“Using sport and recreation to engage with them, it’s about the development of their character, values and heart, but also includes life skills and leadership development components, all through physical activity,” says Kevin.
“Though youth development is our main focus we use the power of sport, recreation and play to challenge young people to win their future both in sport and in life,” says Kevin.
Sport NZ Priority Communities – Strategic Lead Junior Armstrong says there are complex challenges for providers such as Ignite Sport to remain sustainable into the future, while doing the best they can to provide important initiatives alongside young people.
“While we wanted to support the project, we know the solutions are best developed by the communities and those closest to the coalface. We are glad to have played a small part in supporting Ignite Sport in the evolution of this journey and the development of their own whare for their people.”
For the past 17 years, Kevin has longed for a place Ignite and its young people could call home, having spent that time either in temporary offices or grappling to find other facilities to deliver programmes.
“More than 2000 young people annually who are part of our youth development initiatives will benefit from this facility, along with the local neighbourhood and other community groups,” says Kevin.
From the outset the locally-led project has involved the immediate neighbourhood, the wider Ignite Sport community and supporters.
“Along the way we have had several “on-site” community meetings explaining progress and making decisions about how we can work together to manage, protect and use the courts and facilities. Several neighbours have even offered to give their time voluntarily,” says Kevin.
The refurbished facility now boasts an indoor recreation area, kitchen, breakout rooms, accessible bathrooms and a new garage. Following a collaboration with Hutt City Council, there are also all-weather multisport courts, new driveways and carparks.
Development plans for stage two include a walking/running path, exercise stations, seating and planting.
The new premises means most Ignite programmes can now be delivered in one location rather than having to access multiple venues.
“We’ve saving up to 1.5 hours per day of travel in vans moving from venue to venue, and this way young people get to see our centre as their space,” says Kevin.
“They also get to see familiar items, including wall photos of each group we work with, which is a permanent reminder for them that this is home.”