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Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre opening marks 100th facility landmark for consultant Michael King

Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre opening marks 100th facility landmark for consultant Michael King
October 29, 2018

The weekend opening of the City of Greater Bendigo’s new aquatic and recreation centre at Kangaroo Flat, the Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre, not only represents one of the country’s best value community facilities but also marks consultant Michael King’s 100th major new or redeveloped facility.

King, as a Director of Otium Planning Group Pty Ltd, has clocked up almost 40 years of industry experience and now is extremely proud to have been involved in a century of major aquatic, recreation and sport facilities across Australasia and the Pacific Region.

King notes how appropriate to now have this fantastic Wellbeing Centre opened that includes large range of high attractor facilities to encourage people to be more active and healthy to record such a long time personal investment in the development of new and redeveloped aquatic, leisure and sport facilities.

Like many of the 100 facility projects King has been involved with over his career, the Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre went through a long period of planning, analysis and reviews from the initial feasibility study which commenced in October 2010.

What started out as a $16 million district facility has now become a major $30 million plus new indoor aquatic and recreation centre for the community of Greater Bendigo and Region.

Fittingly it also featured a three tier government funding partnership to help make it happen, with $15 million from the Victorian Government and $4.7 million from the Federal Government.

King also notes this facility really is unique as its name not only recognises the indigenous history of the area, as’Gurri Wanyarra’ means ‘Kangaroo Waterhole’ which references the creek close to the facility that was an important part of the Dja Dja Wurrung people’s history, but it also is the recognition of such centres not just being swimming pools and health centres but truly a Wellbeing Centre for all.

Clustering and connecting a larger range of activity areas under one roof has been a significant trend that Otium Planning Group has been bringing to most of its projects to assist in developing high use facilities that with a mix of commercial and community activities can also be operationally sustainable.

This centre also shows an amazing value for money, King notes, as many centres of similar size and scope in metropolitan areas across Australia are now costing in-excess of $50 million.

He explains “it’s a credit to the planning and design team to achieve such a value for money centre and I am sure many future clients will want to visit the centre and understand the simple but functional nature of the design and value adds to keep costs to an achievable level for the City of Greater Bendigo”.

From King’s first major facility in Geelong in the early 1980s, when managing recreation and recreation services for the City of South Barwon, to his first facility as a planning consultant in 1991 which saw the development of the Bairnsdale Aquatic Recreation Centre, there has been a consistent trend to develop multi-use facilities in high profile locations with as many activities as possible under the one roof.

Over the past 39 years he has assisted in the development of new and upgraded facilities across Australia, New Zealand and China that collectively host millions of active and healthy people.

Though there are a large number of planned facilities now built and operating, there are many more that are still to reach the stage of final agreement, concept and funding. King notes many of these projects are complex and require many parts of government to come together to make them a reality. To help this process, King recommends early on in any project to make the time to get decision makers together to tour the best facilities of similar nature to what is being proposed.

King explains “this is an investment in learning from successful facilities as well as understanding the sometimes long journey to make such facilities a reality in your community.

“This is a critical step as many people have already formed ideas on what they think they need and this causes many facilities to go wrong at the feasibility level, as the best lessons are from actual successful facilities and not what I think is needed”.

There are also a lot of planning companies out there that have theories on “what’s needed that is not consistent with what is working”. For example, King has heard a lot of criticism from Senior Planners and even high level State Government Advisors about what they describe as a cookie cutter approach to designing and developing these facilities.

As King notes in response there is no doubt, now with so many successful facilities, that the majority of centres are including similar activity areas but good design and function with contemporary operational knowledge will see each centre have its own unique design and look.

Over the planning and facility development journey, King notes he has been fortunate enough to worked on some amazing examples of successful facility development projects, now built and operational such as:

Most Visited/Used Facilities
• Glen Eira Sports and Aquatic Centre (GESAC) - 1.4 million+ visits
• Hurstville Aquatic Leisure Centre (NSW) - 1.2 million+ visits
• AquaPulse, Peninsula Aquatic Recreation Centre (PARC) and Splash Aquapark & Leisure Centre (1 million+ visits)

Major Multi-Use Centres
• Blacktown Leisure Centre, Stanhope – indoor aquatics, health & fitness, library, indoor sport and community function spaces
• Alfred Deakin Centre Mildura – indoor/outdoor aquatics, health & fitness, library, tourist information and community function spaces

Major Event Centres
• Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre Stages 1 and 2
• Beijing 2008 Olympic Swimming Centre – The Water Cube
• Victorian State Netball and Hockey Centre
• Melbourne Icehouse - Docklands

Heritage Centres
• Melbourne City Baths Master Plan - current facility built in 1902 (current project)
• North Sydney Olympic Pool Redevelopment Viability Analysis (current project)

Great Regional Population Facilities
• Caroline Bay Trust Aoraki Centre – Timaru, New Zealand
• Baywave TECT Aquatic and Leisure Centre - Tauranga, New Zealand
• Pulse Energy Recreation Centre – Westport, New Zealand
• Aquamoves – Shepparton
• Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre - Bendigo

Major Facilities adjoining Major Shopping Centres
• Casey ARC – Fountain Gate
• Splash Aquapark & Leisure Centre – Craigieburn
• St Albans Leisure Centre – Keilor Downs (under design)

Through their team of experienced planners, Otium Planning Group is continuing to have major impacts on the next generation of facilities across Australasia as the company currently has three major aquatic leisure centres in early design phase as well as more than 15 facility feasibility studies underway. 

King notes that “the formation of Otium Planning Group in October 2015 has seen remarkable change in feasibility and facility planning options and opportunities with the company in just over three years having undertaken more than 400 projects.

"This business growth has allowed us to invest in more experienced people as well as start up a range of services such as our new Facility Advisory Service, headed up by Bruce Mackay”.

For more information on the Otium Planning Group, click here to view their entry in the Australasian Leisure Management Supplier Directory. 

Related Articles

27th October 2018 - Bendigo’s Gurri Wanyarra Wellness Centre gets official opening

23rd October 2018 - Otium Planning Group launches new Facility Advisory Services

8th October 2018 - Peninsula Leisure’s crisis response secures industry communication and marketing award 

28th August 2018 - Appointment marks new era for Otium Planning Group

15th August 2018 - Otium Planning Group appoints new consultant to NSW office

21st August 2017 - Bendigo Council votes to name new indoor pool the Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre

3rd March 2017 - Otium Planning Group partners with Dave Lanfear Consulting

17th February 2017 - New Craigieburn aquatic centre ready to make a splash

13th February 2017 - Blacktown Leisure Centre Stanhope reaches 12 million visitors landmark

9th December 2015 - New Otium consultancy highlights National Stronger Regions Funding project successes

16th October 2015 - Bendigo council pushes ahead with plans for new $30 million Bendigo aquatic centre

8th July 2015 - Bendigo Council agrees to develop 50 metre swimming pool at Kangaroo Flat

4th May 2015 - Outdoor seasonal pools under ongoing threats

6th June 2012 - SGL Group market tests redevelopment funding and management options at Casey facility

4th August 2010 - Caroline Bay Aquatic Centre Gains an Ambassador


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