By Alex Neale
On a brisk October morning, the Village Green sprouts from its cocoon. Heavy machinery still toils on the turf, distributing the last of the cork. Sprinklers water the grass behind the bleachers, spraying your back if you sit too far up. At the Barker Street end, a massive electronic sign that gives the whole facility an professional vibe rolls through advertisements featuring active, smiling students. Construction fencing with UNSW-yellow advertising begins to shrink behind the pitch, while in front of it gym equipment and a smooth-faced bouldering wall stand at the ready. The Sam Cracknell Pavillion looks like it was dropped in by crane from the Royal Randwick next door, and the main grandstand, with its open seating and abundant power points, doubles as both spectator and study spaces. The half-court in between the two, even this early, is popular. The place feels like a combination of a student lounge and an American high-school football stadium.
It’s really got that new facility smell about it.
UNSW boasts that the Village Green is one of the largest university recreational precincts in Australia. With 25,000 square meters open to student use at any time, it’s no surprise that the space buzzes with groups of students sitting and studying, eating lunch, playing dartball, football, wheelchair basketball and spikeball by lunchtime – despite piles of undistributed turf filler rendering organised sport unplayable for the time being.
But when the pitch is ready, any student will be able to borrow sporting equipment from Arc Sport to use at their leisure for the day.
The uni spruiks facility designs with a focus on student mental health, and on-campus spaces’ capacity to nurture it.
“That doesn’t just include the scholarly spaces on campus and mental health literacy of our staff,” explained Director of Wellbeing Neil Morris, “but deliberate placemaking efforts to have a dedicated Wellness Precinct on campus.”
The facilities are capable of hosting sporting events run by UNSW sporting clubs and professional organisations alike.