Between 2015 and 2020, the number of girls and women playing rugby in New Zealand increased by 74%. At a local level, women’s rugby has gained real momentum and is growing in popularity. However, community clubs are struggling to provide adequate sporting facilities to meet the needs of female players and keep them in the game. New Zealand Rugby (NZR) is committed to supporting an inclusive and welcoming rugby community. For any sport, the right environment is key. Whether to attract new participants or to help them reach their true potential, facilities play a vital role in the growth of sport. Get it right and people will enjoy visiting; get it wrong and experiences could be negatively affected, or they simply won’t return.
In 2020, Sport NZ agreed to support the NZR application to upgrade the changing room and amenity blocks at the Rugby World Cup (RWC) match venues and RWC Training Grounds. The process became the Gender-Neutral Facilities upgrade project and provided opportunity to implement international standard changing room facilities. First and foremost it focused on the RWC teams (players, management and match officials), at three match venues and eight community training grounds, with an enduring legacy for the sport and local female participants post the event.
After consultation with players, team management and match officials from the three women’s World Cups, eleven desired legacy outcomes were developed with consideration to the Sport NZ design principals. This provided the framework for the architect to design unique solutions for each facility. Greenstone Group were originally engaged in the project to assist with the initial funding application process and were carried through to project manage the stakeholders, design and construction works for the rest of the project.
The ambitious aim for this project was to set a new international standard for Gender Neutral Changing Room facilities and rid the country of the previous male orientated open plan showers, with gigantic urinals and shared changing areas. Most of the regional changing rooms were also underfunded, leading to them being severely undermaintained. The project included a very wide range of facilities from upgrading NZ’s largest stadium Eden Park with its strict commercial environments, to local regional fields like Hora Hora in Northland.
Complex stakeholder management was a major challenge for this project with Sport NZ funding managed by NZ Rugby and individual construction contracts needed for the nine venues, some of which added their own funds for additional scope items into their build. This lead to risks on the project around possible funding misallocation, programme delays and complicated design coordination issues. Greenstone managed these risks by creating robust processes for several funding sources and multiple construction contracts broken into separable portions. Using clear communication and controls put in place to enable the construction team to operate effectively, we overcome disruptions and delays to completion of physical construction works.
Greenstone bought our industry knowledge and strong relationships to the fore by building a team of consultants we knew had immediate availability to start on the project which had a constrained programme. Covid also put pressure on the project programme causing, shipping delays, staffing shortages and additional health & safety requirements. We navigated this by re-allocating priorities across the various venues, bringing in extra contractors and carrying out temporary works to prepare facilities for use whilst works were ongoing.
Greenstone added significant value to this project through our passion for sports. Utilising our real life experience with similar facilities lead to a good understanding of what was needed to function efficiently. The Gender-Neutral Facilities upgrade has created the gold standard for Gender Neutral changing rooms, with multiple different case studies, that can be applied to the Sport New Zealand Legacy Initiatives at a number of venues across the country.
Greenstone Group created processes for managing multiple projects as a larger programme of works, containing multiple stakeholders, funding sources and agreements. The success of this process has led to the same one now being rolled out across similar upgrades for the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Greenstone also provided ongoing construction project advice to NZ Rugby in preparation of a ‘Best Practice Guide’ that will be issued to all rugby unions and clubs nationwide for use during changing room upgrades, replacements, or new builds.
The same legacy initiatives identified in this project have now been built into the assessment criteria for the Lotteries commission community funding that will be built into any new projects of the same nature. Greenstone are now applying the same Gender Neutral Gold Standard that was developed by Sport NZ to FIFA Women’s World Cup upgrades now in Auckland & Wellington regions. We are also overseeing the upgrades for the FIFA tournament nationwide.