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Lyttelton, portal to Canterbury’s historic past, a vibrant sustainable community creating a living future

Recreation Centre Activation Project

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It’s been 10 months since the Lyttelton Recreation Centre Activation Team set out to help restore it as a place for community and connection. Five people, sharing one Full Time Equivalent employee’s hours, have squeezed an awful lot out of that time. See what they’ve been up to, and why:

The Lyttelton Recreation Centre is the largest facility available for community use in Lyttelton. In years past, it had high use – for recreational sport, community groups and occasional hire. Many a child’s birthday party was held ‘at the Rec’.

The earthquakes, a change in Council designation, changing demographic, and lack of promotion have all contributed to a decline in use of the Centre.

Lyttelton Recreation Centre Activation Team
Recognising the decline in use, Christchurch City Council (CCC) approached Project Lyttelton (PL) about identifying ways to improve use of the Centre. Seeing a fit with their own goals of enabling increased social connectedness and wellbeing, PL developed a project outline and sought Resilience Partnership Funding. With funding secured in late 2017, PL set up the Lyttelton Recreation Centre Activation Team who report to a Council-Project Lyttleton Advisory Board. The team of five, working a total of 40 hours per week, had two early objectives:

  1. Better understand current use, and the community’s interest in future use, of the facility.
  2. Make a start on increasing use of the Centre.

Lyttelton Recreation Centre Survey and Drop-Ins
The Activation Team created an online survey to explore how the Centre might be used in future to improve individual and community wellbeing. They also ran an Open Day, supported by current tenants. These activities were promoted via community Facebook pages, posters and a suburb-wide mail drop.

There were 113 survey respondents and more than 250 Open Day attendees. Open Day attendees also completed ‘dot survey’, using three sticky dots to identify their preferred activities in a list drawn from survey feedback.

Research Findings

Survey Respondents:

  • 69% of respondents have visited the Rec Centre, 31% have never visited the Rec Centre
  • Of those who have never visited the Centre, 40% reported that they were not aware of what goes on; 17% reported that the activities are not of interest; many respondents reported having no time or activities occurring outside of their available hours.
  • 76% of respondents live in Lyttelton, 14% live in the Wakaraupo/ Lyttelton Harbour Basin, 5% live elsewhere, 5% did not respond.
  • Women use the Centre more frequently, usually with others (children).

Issues with use:
The main barriers to use of the Centre were: access, awareness (of what’s going on, of what’s expected of tenants); an un-staffed, impersonal reception area and; a problematic booking system. 

Future use:

  • 87% of respondents would like to see the Recreation Centre used for Activities such as indoor sports, a gym, childrens’ activities or classes and workshops.
  • 58% of respondents would like to see the Centre used for Services such as social services, a café or drop in centre or co-working space.
  • 82% of respondents would like to see the Centre used for Occasional Events such as art or craft shows, social events, education, live performance or sports.

The most popular additional future uses for the Recreation Centre were, in order of popularity: fitness gym, climbing wall and/or bouldering, sauna, creative art space, community lounge, bookable café, co-working space and mentoring or life skills coaching.

You can read the full survey results here.

Activity to date
In the past 10 months, the Activation team has welcomed eight new tenants to the Centre and retained 15 existing tenants. They are also working to reduce some of the barriers identified in the survey. Achievements include:

  • A staffed reception area six days/ week. (Lyttelton Timebank provide reception services in return for use of the administrative space. They are supported by additional volunteers.)
  • Foyer seating, for parents waiting to collect their children.
  • Offering a free trial period to new groups/ tenants, including badminton and community Curry Nights.
  • Supporting the Youth Programme, which has extended its service from one, to two sessions per week.
  • Hosting the Lyttelton Fruit & Vegetable Collective, which has seen a 19% increase in membership since moving.
  • Relocating the Toy Library to a more family-friendly location adjacent to the basketball court and supporting the Toy Library to promote its services.
  • Re-homing the Lyttelton Library of Tools & Things to a secure premise and supporting their development of an online booking service.
  • Installing the LIFT library in the foyer to increase the visibility ofthe service. It was formerly housed in an individual’s home.
  • Encouraging free use of the table tennis table during staffed hours and; making the shower facilities available for a small fee.

Next Steps

Ongoing management of Lyttelton Recreation Centre:
With initial community consultation complete, the Lyttelton Recreation Centre Activation Team is now working to develop a self-sustaining model. To this end, it is working with Council on how management of the facility might sit within community hands. It has also reached out to other local community spaces and local commercial parties to explore how and where community needs can best be served using local assets.

Booking System:
The Activation Team is in the later stages of vetting a more user-friendly booking system. This will go live once approval is received to do so.

Utilisation of space: squash courts, fitness gym:
The Centre is made up of four bookable spaces: the basketball court, Trinity Hall, mezzanine and the squash courts (there are two).
The squash courts are the most under-utilised area of the Centre, with current bookings averaging 9.5 hours per month. Five individuals make regular bookings (five or more per year), while 22 individuals have booked and paid to use the squash courts in the past 12 months. Assuming everyone brings along a unique partner, there were 44 users of the courts in the past year – 10 of them regulars.

The Activation team is currently in talks with Council and with an interested party regarding the use of the squash courts space as a commercial fitness gym. A gym was the most popular future use activity identified during research.

Conversion of the space would require no structural changes to the courts. Should a commercial gym be established at the Recreation Centre, the rental returns would help to sustain the venue and to subsidise community-group activity. These benefits must be considered against the wants of current squash players and any likely growth in player numbers in future.

To this end, Council is seeking feedback on this proposal and invite your thoughts via email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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