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Graham Condon leisure centre: a partnership innovation

Graham Condon leisure centre: a partnership innovation

Case study about the Graham Condon Recreation and Sport Centre (GCRSC).


The GCRSC will be a world-class entertainment hub located at the centre of the local community and managed and operated by Christchurch City Council (CCC) staff.

It will include an eight-lane, 25m indoor swimming pool, spa pool, learners' pool, separate toddlers' pool with wet deck, a 250sqm gym, and sports hall which will provide court space for a netball court or up to three volleyball courts. The gym will provide the local community access to state-of-the-art fitness and exercise equipment.

There will be an emphasis on removing barriers to participation through making the facility physically and socially accessible through the use of ramps and other features.

Graham Condon was a former Christchurch City councillor and Sport New Zealand board member who died tragically in a cycling accident in 2007. The naming of the centre recognises the work he did in the community and his commitment to helping sports people to achieve their full potential.

This case study examines the partnership behind the development, the key stages in the project, including concept development and value management, and some examples of good practice.


The Graham Condon Leisure Centre (GCLC) follows in the footsteps of QEII Hydroslides, which was the first aquatic facility to be built in partnership with the CCC. The GCLC is being built on land owned by Papanui High School, adjacent to Northlands shopping centre.

The need for an aquatic facility in the north-west area was determined through the Aquatic Facilities Plan prepared by the CCC. The first of three new aquatic centres to be built in Christchurch over the next 13 years, Papanui will complement the existing suite of facilities in the city.

The pool is being constructed specifically as a community leisure facility. It is unlikely to be used for major competitions because the QEll facility already serves this purpose. Similarly the dry facilities, including gym, are designed for local community access.

The requirement for the council to construct an aquatic facility, and Papanui High School’s need for access to an aquatic facility, have made the partnership a logical step. While the school was not able to fund the development of the project, they have leased the land for the site to the council.

In return, the school will have access to a facility on its doorstep and their existing sports hall will be integrated into the new complex. The school’s ability to offer a parcel of land large enough for the project, in an area with high costs for land and development, makes the partnership a good option from the council’s perspective.

Meanwhile, the location of the facility adjacent to the Northlands shopping precinct is likely to provide benefits to the new centre and the shopping precinct, with increased public usage and flow-on commercial effects.

The partnership will also allow for maximum use of the facility. Both the school and the general public will use the facilities during the day. In the evening when public pool usage is higher, the demand from the school will be minimal. Meanwhile, there will be separate changing facilities provided to ensure enough space for general public users and the schools.

Project funding

The bulk of the $12 million dollar project is being funded by CCC, which is contributing $11.5 million to the project. The remaining funding will be made up of contributions from Papanui High School and the Kiwi Income Property Trust.

Key steps in developing the project

A steering group comprising the three parties was established with a clear mandate underpinning the operational aspects of the partnership. To date, the collaboration has been very successful. Significant time has been invested in the planning, ensuring the interests of all stakeholders in the project are sufficiently well balanced and reducing the likelihood of any potential conflicts of interest.

The concept plan

The concept plan was developed in reference to the needs outlined in the Aquatic Facilities Plan. The initial plan for the centre was based on a brief from the CCC, then given to an architecture firm to develop a range of building options to fit the leisure centre requirements.

The concept plan has since been worked through by the steering group. There have also been meetings to collect feedback on the designs from outside the steering group. This process has helped in refining the project design.

For example, as a result of advice from Recreation and Sports staff at the council, plans and priorities were altered to incorporate a larger gym than was originally planned.

Value management

Value management is the name given to the process of assessing, prioritising and making judgements about which parts of the project will go ahead. The steering group has worked through various elements of the project design and rated each feature according to cost, priorities and the requirements of the project budget.

John Filsell, recreation and sports manager at the council, believes that thorough planning and value management processes have been crucial factors in ensuring the success of the project to date.

The concept planning and value management phases have been an area of particular emphasis and taken approximately 12 months to complete. This has required a high degree of cooperation between the partners.

John sees this as an investment in good planning and ensuring buy-in from all the stakeholders.

Looking forward

The project team has now agreed on a set of project/building plans to be released for tender. The contract for construction of the facility will be put out to tender before the end of 2008. It is expected that construction will be completed by early 2010.

Good practice


John Filsell points out that although the partnership has worked extremely well and has been a good team-building exercise, working with new project partners is a challenge for all parties. There is a learning phase while the partners recognise and balance their mutual needs.

To be successful in this process, the partners need to be aware of how to move from a position of unilateral decision-making to working through decisions and reaching consensus with project partners.

For organisations used to developing projects independently, adapting to this partnership approach needs to be factored into the planning, project design phase and operational structure of the project.

Specifically, project staff should be experienced in such collaborations, or have some preparation to deal with the collaborative project environment and the tasks, such as developing the partnership mandate.

Work with consultants familiar with aquatic facilities construction

Construction of aquatic facilities is a specialised process. While many building companies are familiar with certain aspects of the process, such as the construction of concrete foundations, there are many other key aspects to the design.

These include water management, pool design and pool environment design. It is worthwhile working with an organisation experienced in the type of construction and design you are developing. This point re-emphasises recommendations made in the Aquatic Facilities Review commissioned by Sport NZ in 2005.

Use fixed-price contracts

Using a fixed-price contract with construction companies is highly recommended. This helps planning, avoiding cost overruns, and is particularly useful over a long project cycle when the market for building materials such as steel and glass is volatile.

Invest time in initial planning

Spending time getting the project planning and design concepts right is a key investment. Aside from ensuring buy-in from stakeholders, this is a big cost saver. Once tender drawings are finalised, making changes is an expensive process.

The investment in planning means it is less likely that these drawings will be changed over the project cycle.

Hence, the project team invested 12 months in the concept planning and value management (setting priorities against cost) phases of the decision process.

Environmental design and energy efficiency

Pool heating is a significant cost in the running of an aquatic facility. The project is currently considering options for an environmentally smart design to heat the pool.

These include use of the school’s two wood pellet-fired boilers, and possible use of an adjacent supermarket’s surplus heat from its refrigeration systems.

The project team and the supermarket are currently examining how the pool’s heating system could draw energy from the supermarket’s refrigeration waste energy.

This would add yet another innovative dimension to the partnerships involved in the development of the GCLC.

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