17 Dec 2022

Facilities fit for the the world's sporting kings and queens

1:54 pm on 17 December 2022
New accomodation for athletes is about to open at NZ Campus of Innovation and Sport

There are 50 apartments, and half are wheelchair accessible - all a stone's throw from training fields. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

New high-performance athlete accommodation in Upper Hutt is ready to wow the Swedish women's football team, who will call it home during their FIFA World Cup campaign.

A sink to scrub footy boots, a video performance analysis station, and a shower fit for 204cm-tall All Black Brodie Retallick are among the mod cons at the New Zealand Campus of Innovation and Sport (NZCIS) facilities.

NZCIS director Jamie Tout said the apartments have been designed by athletes, for athletes - with Black Ferns Sarah Hirini, Kendra Cocksedge and Les Elder, the Chiefs' Tamati Ellison and Black Cap Grant Elliott among those who pitched in with ideas.

They discussed the most important things to help them train, play and recover, Tout said.

"So it's things like, we're putting blackout curtains on the windows so when you rock up after having jet lag and you want to get a good night's sleep, you can black out completely.

"The bag shelves, the height of the ceiling was important, the connection to the outdoors, so every apartment has an outdoor balcony."

Tout said everything was designed with the help of a "Brodie Retallick height stick" to ensure even the largest athletes would be comfortable.

  • FIFA Women's World Cup on track to set new records
  • The apartments also feature screens for performance analysis, and reclining La-Z-Boys for maximum relaxation.

    There are 50 apartments, and half are wheelchair accessible - all a stone's throw from training fields.

    'Everything is so nice'

    The Chiefs Manawa will be the first team to sleep, eat and train there in February ahead of the Super Rugby Aupiki season opener, before the Swedish women's football team arrive for their World Cup campaign.

    Three Wellington Phoenix players - Milly Clegg, Claudia Cicco and Finn Surman - checked it out for the first time and said it's streets ahead of anything they've seen before.

    For Surman, it was the little things - like being able to fit his 190cm frame under the showerhead.

    "I think when you're away from home, it's important to feel comfortable where you are.

    "Somewhere like this, everything is so nice, easy to get in the shower, awesome bed, amazing chairs, all that sort of stuff.

    "It's perfect, and it helps the transition from being away from home, and that'll probably help you perform better."

    Claudia Cicco, Milly Clegg and Finn Surman check out the new accomodation at NZ Campus of Innovation and Sport

    Footballers Milly Clegg, Claudia Cicco and Finn Surman. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

    And how does it compare to where they'd stayed before?

    "So much better," said Clegg. "It's like, insane. Like, you get to stay in your kind of own place and everything you need is basically here."

    International opinions sought

    The rooms are part of an 18ha complex funded by local developers Malcolm Gillies and Kevin Melville, who have so far coughed up more than $100 million.

    It's kitted out with a state-of-the-art gym, cycle training rooms, pools, team and treatment rooms, kitchens, and indoor and outdoor fields with 360-degree cameras for training analysis.

    Tout said the standard is among the best in the world, having consulted with international heavyweights like Manchester United and American football's New York Giants.

    "What do they expect when they go to hotels? Because that's what we really expect - in the long-term, these won't just be used by local athletes and potentially business conferences, but also touring teams."

    Much of the complex is a construction site with building and landscaping still underway.

    But in future, it'll be home to Black Ferns and All Blacks training camps, attract clubs of all sports from US and Japan, and be developed for indoor sports like basketball and netball.

    The finishing touches will be complete well before the FIFA Women's World Cup kicks off in July, said Tout.

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