Sneak peek inside city’s bold $57.3m hub

Mount Gambier’s multi-million-dollar recreation centre is on track, with the state-of-the-art facility set to open to the public in autumn 2022.

Speaking at a press tour of the Wulanda Recreation and Convention Centre, BADGE senior construction manager Mark Wyatt, who is overseeing the Mount Gambier project, outlined the development’s progress.

But a significant hurdle remains when Australia’s largest-ever imported timbers arrive at the project, after the 45-metre-long beams were fully constructed before their arrival.

Wyatt explained that this was a tweak in the facility’s design – which deliberately incorporates a large amount of engineered timber products – introduced to offset any coronavirus-related delays.

“They are the longest timber beams to be shipped to Australia,” Mr Wyatt told the press. “Getting them into Margaret Street will be the interesting bit.”

With the facility capable of welcoming thousands of people upon completion for sports and events, the convention centre opens the door for a boosted Mount Gambier visitor economy.

In 2022, when the $57.3m facility opens, it will be an ideal time – with increased flights to and from the region in the form of QantasLink and Regional Express services at Mount Gambier Airport.

Mount Gambier City Council acting chief executive Barbara Cernovskis believes the centre could be a game-changer for businesses in the region. “We’re sharpening our focus on how we can work with the business community to help them understand what value this could bring to their business,” Ms Cernovskis told The SE Voice.

“But also, what we’ll be doing is actively looking at filling the facility’s program, because once you have got a filled program, you have something to go to businesses with. “It’s really about creating an environment that builds the confidence for them to invest or to diversify and it’s somewhat organic.”

Ms Cernovskis said the council would strengthen its relationships with the Adelaide Convention Bureau and the SA Tourism Commission to work alongside their event calendars.

With recent successes for the region in hosting Fringe Mount Gambier and with Ms Cernovskis hinting at the region aiming to host large-scale events, she said “the opportunities are there for us”.

“We have got a solid foundation that we need to continue to build on, but we have to work with our community to bring them on board,” she said.

But while the centre will attract visitors with events, whether sporting or corporate, it could be its own drawcard as a cutting-edge facility incorporating timber.

With a federal push to utilise greater amounts of engineered wood products in construction, the centre will be on the frontline of this field, according to Ms Cernovskis. “This is going to attract a lot of interest,” she said.

“And quite possibly, we’ll be leading the way for other councils or government sectors to adopt this type of approach.”

The council is also hopeful the facility will inspire secondary investments in the Green Triangle, potentially paving the way for the region to diversify in timber processing.

This hope carries precedent. In 2020, Timberlink Australia won a contract for a $60m timber manufacturing plant to be built at Tarpeena, which will produce cross laminated timber (CLT) and glue laminated timber (GLT) for commercial building construction.

Timberlink Australia was delivered $2m from South Australia’s Regional Growth Fund to help secure the major project in South Australia.

The Tarpeena plant, which represents one of Australia’s first CLT and GLT timber plants, will create 50 new jobs to the Green Triangle.

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