Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness (SUSF) officially opened its $15 million Sports & Aquatic Centre extension on Thursday, August 15 at its Grand Opening function in front of 400 guests.

University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Michael Spence, cut the tape to open the new facility which features Brydens Stadium (including the Brydens Sydney Uni Flames show court), a 730-seat grandstand and accompanying change rooms, a 300sqm Brydens Group Fitness Studio, a 170sqm Brydens Boxing Gym and a 230sqm Brydens Martial Arts Dojo.

The new 2600sqm construction, which is an extension to the existing Sydney Uni Sports & Aquatic Centre (SUSAC) immediately to the west of the tennis courts, caters for many of the sports previously housed in the demolished H.K. Ward Gymnasium.

Dr Spence told the 400 people present at the ceremony, the opening of the new building was a great day for sport at the University and for the University.

“The facility shows the commitment and foresight of the University to support the student experience,” he said.

“It tells us why sport is important and belongs with education; it’s a commitment to excellence. But it’s not just about doing things well; it’s also about giving other things a go, such as lunchtime social sport.

“Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness is an important part of a proud university. It is an organisation that provides these opportunities. It makes things happen.”

Dr Spence said the construction of the grandstand at Oval No. 1 in 1975 was the last time the University had funded a building for sport on the campus. “Most of the sporting facilities have been done by the sporting bodies,” he said.

The Vice-Chancellor said the University was now committed to constructing a 1200 seat grandstand facility on Sydney University Oval No. 2 and that piers for the new boat shed at Linley Point were to proceed.

He also noted a feasibility study would be undertaken for the construction of a new hockey turf at the University’s Cumberland campus.

The Executive Director of Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness, Rob Smithies, said the organisation was indebted to the University for its support in funding the new facility.

“The University has paid for almost all of this building, and the project has, to put it delicately, exceeded budget,” he said. 

“Contaminated soil and undocumented pipes have been the main issues, but I think that the final product is worth every cent that has been outlaid.  This is a building that will leave a huge legacy for many generations of SUSF stakeholders and I’d like to take this opportunity on behalf of SUSF and its constituent clubs to thank the University of Sydney, its Senate and the Vice-Chancellor for their commitment to this project and to the student experience at Sydney University. 

“There are very few universities around the country that place such value on the experience students have outside of the classroom as well as inside it, and it’s one of the many reasons that this University continues to attract the best and brightest from across Australia and the world. Thanks for all of your support for everything that Sydney University does.”

Mr Smithies also thanked over 200 donors who had contributed to the Finishing Touches Fund.

“We set out to raise a quarter of a million dollars about 16 weeks ago through our Finishing Touches Fund, which was an unprecedented sum of money for this organisation to contemplate,” he said. “As of today we have raised $242,000.”

Mr Smithies thanked Brydens Lawyers, who have taken up a new category of sponsorship for the naming rights to all of the new facilities. The Sydney Uni Flames, to be sponsored by Brydens for the next three seasons, will make the new Brydens Stadium and the show court in it their home in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL).

The Executive Director also paid tribute to SUSF staff.  “We have the best group of staff you could ever hope for and this building wouldn’t be where it is without them,” he said. “In the past few months, SUSF has taken on its biggest infrastructure project, its biggest fundraising project, its biggest marketing project, its biggest moving project and one of its biggest functions, all at the same time. Without a small army of dedicated, enthusiastic and hard-working staff these things wouldn’t have been accomplished.”

He made particular mention of Property & Projects Manager, Ed Smith; the Finishing Touches fundraising team headed by Rodney Tubbs, David Collins and Cameron Nichol; Operations Manager David Shaw and his team; Marketing & Memberships Manager Jess Laycock and her team, including Andrew Tilley and Costa Popolizio; Campus Infrastructure Services and its director Greg Robinson; and Buildcorp and their employees who constructed the building.

SUSF President, Bruce Ross, said the elegant, new, functional facility replaced an ugly, old, ill-functioning building in the H.K. Ward Gymnasium.

“This is a facility we can be really proud of and I’d like to pay tribute to the University and the Senate for the decision they took during the Voluntary Student Union times when sports funding was suffering,” he said.

“The student experience at this university distinguishes us from other universities. Our University has been generous where others have not been so generous.”

In that respect, he particularly thanked Dr Spence and his predecessor, the late Gavin Brown.

“This is a world-class institution and we compete successfully at that level academically and on the sporting arenas,” he said. “This building reflects our push for excellence.”