The ANU Sport Council revealed they were unsuccessful in their bid to operate the recreation building in the redeveloped Union Court at their AGM on Wednesday, 12 April.
The new recreation building – which will feature a 25-metre swimming pool, a 15-by-eight-metre hydro pool and a 24-hour gym – was announced in a statement by the ANU in December, which said it would ‘help meet community demand for additional facilities.’
The ANU Sport Council’s president, David Luchetti, explained at the AGM that the group was unsuccessful in their bid ‘due to the commercial aspect of the facility that the ANU are looking to operate.
‘They felt the Association wasn’t in the position to run a commercial facility,’ he said
Instead, The Club Group, better known as Club Lime, will operate the new recreation centre.
The CEO of ANU Sport, Michael Brady, made it clear that ANU Sport would still play a role in sport and recreation on the ANU campus after the redevelopment.
‘The gym and pool will be for high end users – that is what they [the ANU] have said to us, and they would like us to continue to operate and offer a service. Our operation is highly accessible for students,’ he said.
The Club Group Pty Limited was formed in 2003 after a lease was secured over the Canberra International Sports & Aquatic Centre (CISAC) – a location that now attracts over one million visitors per year. The Club Group currently operates 14 businesses.
Luchetti also commented that ‘The entire redevelopment is designed around off-campus traffic being redirected onto campus for the commercial aspect.’
This statement reflects the words of Brian Schmidt, who said at a press gathering in February that ‘it’s a good time to be able to come in and experience our university life even if you’re not still at university.’
The Reunion Court website says that ‘A dynamic mix of food, café, bar and retail services, with year round increased operating hours, will contribute to the rhythm and vibrancy in the new Union Court precinct.’
The ANU declined to comment whether the year-round utilisation of the new precinct by the Canberra community would lead to an increase in the prices of goods and services on offer.
An ANU spokesman told Woroni that a year-round calendar of events in the Union Court precinct will be a ‘welcome change’ for those who stay on campus.
‘Rather than the campus becoming an empty place when our students are away and events competing with teaching space during semester, the inclusion of a large purpose-built events centre means we will be able to host more festivals, plays, films, events, conferences and concerts on campus all year round, and encourage the Canberra community to visit ANU and take part in ANU events,’ he said.
The spokesman declined to comment on whether the university would be imposing restrictions on businesses to ensure that the goods and services in the new Union Court precinct remained affordable for students.
At the ANU Sport AGM, Brady said: ‘Universities are now big businesses. They have a way of running their businesses that see to their high-end objectives. This university has made it clear they want to be a big player on the international stage. There is a lot of ambiguity that comes from grand statements like these.’
Luchetti also emphasised the impact the redevelopment was already having on the group’s ability to engage in capital works spending.
‘The Union Court redevelopment has also had an impact on potential expenditure that we had been expecting to make. We have some capacity to spend money and invest it in infrastructure on campus but we are hesitant until we know where we stand,’ he said.
The ANU Sport Treasurer, Neil Parsons, echoed this, saying, ‘We [ANU Sport] have got a very healthy balance sheet. We have about $2.7 million in the bank and low levels of debt. We are looking for things to spend the money on, but it is very difficult to build things on campus at the minute – either due to finding the space or getting permission.’
The Club Group did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.