The development applications for the Dragons’ state-of-the-art Community and High Performance Centre (CHPC) have now been lodged with Wollongong City Council (WCC).
The NSW Government has committed $40 million to the project at the University of Wollongong's Innovation Campus.
The CHPC has a proposed construction start time in the second half of 2023, subject to obtaining the necessary approvals, with an estimated completion in late 2024.
This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver an integrated facility that will set a new benchmark for community, research and education, and rugby league excellence.
The CHPC is an important step for the Dragons' rugby league endeavours on and off the field and has also been designed with the club's catchment area and community front of mind.
Minister for Sport Alister Henskens said the project is expected to create 229 new jobs during construction and support more than 60 new full-time jobs once operational.
“The Illawarra is a traditional rugby league stronghold, and this new facility will foster the next generation of talent from across the region,” Mr Henskens said.
“The NSW Government is investing in our communities to deliver the best sporting infrastructure and this facility will provide more opportunities for elite athletes and aspiring professionals to operate at the highest level, both on and off the field.”
The CHPC will provide exciting new opportunities to further the club's collaborative community partnership activities that stretch from the St George region to the Illawarra, South Coast and beyond, building on the 20 different programs and more than 114,000 community members currently engaging with the Dragons each year.
Dragons, UOW and NSW Government announce CHPC progress
The CHPC will also act as a catalyst for increased female participation in sport, with an anticipated additional 6,000 women playing in the region over the next decade. It also has the potential to increase regular participation in sport in the Illawarra region for more than 2,500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples during the next 10 years.
Opportunities for those attending University of Wollongong will be extensive, with student access to the CHPC expected to reach 30-45 hours per week in the name of improved education, research, data sharing and partnership outcomes.
Additionally, football-related placement programs will provide up to 300-plus student hours per week as well as ongoing scholarship, work experience and internship opportunities available to UOW students each year.
UOW Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Innovation, Enterprise and External Relations) Professor Alex Frino was pleased to see the DA process underway.
“This is an exciting announcement for UOW, the Dragons, and the region, as it means that we have taken the next step to building a best-in-class Community, Research and High-Performance Centre right here in the Illawarra,” he said.
“At UOW, we’re extremely excited by the research, teaching and community engagement opportunities that this partnership presents, as we welcome the potential of the Dragons CHPC to our world-leading Innovation Campus.”
Athletes will benefit from two full-sized fields with floodlights, NRL and NRLW change rooms, a large state-of-the-art gym, a hot-and-cold aquatic recovery centre, physio and strapping room, a lecture theatre and a player lounge area.
Dragons Chairman Andrew Lancaster welcomed this step.
“We have committed significant energy, thought and resources to developing a proposal that will deliver for the community, UOW, rugby league and the region,” he said.
“In addition, we are planning for the growth in girls and women’s rugby league and have ensured that Connecting with Country principles are at the core of the project. This will be an iconic building.
"Bringing all of our operations together into one location will be a real positive for our club and our football program and pathways. It is a significant moment for the Dragons and a foundation for building future success.”
The all-encompassing facility will house club administration and include open-plan office space with meeting rooms, a lunch and dining area with balcony, a studio and media space and a community classroom.
A merchandise zone near the main entry will showcase the team gear and provide a focal point to celebrate the Dragons. It is also a space to share team and club history and information and is a key part of welcoming players, staff and guests to the Dragons.
Two development applications concerning the relocation of existing heritage buildings and the subsequent construction of the CHPC have been lodged with Wollongong City Council. They are available to view online here and here, and the community is invited to inspect them and provide feedback.