Fit for the future

November 26, 2020
Why Warren and Mahoney’s latest sports and recreation project at La Trobe University Sports Park is a new ‘PB’.

La Trobe University Sports Park at Bundoora, Melbourne, has been designed as the first purpose-built facility of its kind in Australia. Modelled on the USA’s ‘Community University’ style campus, it combines new tertiary sporting facilities, dedicated teaching spaces and laboratories for world-leading sports education testing and analytics alongside community sport infrastructure and tenancies.

The recent opening of the $50M La Trobe Sports Stadium marked the completion of the second phase of development for the state-of-the-art sports facility that will be used by La Trobe students, professional athletes and locals alike.

When life in Victoria bears some semblance of normal, the Sports Park is expected to welcome 10,000 visitors per week and is a key component of La Trobe's plan to transform its Melbourne Campus in Bundoora into a University City of the Future.

The 60-hectare site integrates academic research and teaching functions with world-class playing facilities for professional, state and community clubs playing Australian Rules Football, cricket, soccer and baseball. The Tony Sheehan oval has played home to the Carlton VFLW team and Melbourne City FC are also located on campus.

The honour of designing this incredible space was awarded to Warren and Mahoney following a competitive tender.

Warren and Mahoney worked with design partners MJMA during the design process to ensure the comprehensive project would meet the needs of both La Trobe and the surrounding community. One of the driving strategies around the development of the Sports Park was the opportunity to break down the borders between the University and its locals – reflecting the community-focused tertiary institution model in America.

Lead architect, Daryl Maguire, says while a high-level masterplan had already been drawn up – situating buildings in multiple locations across an enormous site – one of the first things the practice did was to interrogate this first draft with client and stakeholders needs and expectations through extensive consultation and user group workshops.

“Based on these findings, we then developed a very different masterplan."

“The new design was built around a ‘hubbing’ strategy that co-located high-performance sports science facilities, teaching and research spaces and indoor playing facilities in one main building."

“This resulted in reduced building form across the site and provided significant efficiency gains from shared operations and services. Crucially, it also transformed the Sports Park into a place with a busy, energetic heart."

Maguire says the key concept was to concentrate maximum activity into a single centre of gravity that would naturally draw a broad range of participants. Students, athletes, academics, sports administrators and community club members come together, concentrating their energy, talent and experience in one vibrant hub.

“The hub is situated as close as possible to the main university campus, with visual and physical connections to maximise accessibility and engagement. Its forecourt is aligned with the main public transport interchange, the arrival point for most students, and links directly to the Agora, the social heart of the campus.

“At the heart of the design is the transparent teaching ‘bar’ that lies between the indoor and outdoor playing areas, opening out both sides and creating a learning zone that links codes and functions.”

The masterplan allows for expansion of facilities and sporting codes over time. The plan is designed to limit disruption and future capital expense, and to ensure that additions can be efficiently integrated with the current facilities. Workspaces have been designed with deliberate overcapacity to open up potential sub-leasing opportunities in the future.

The Sports Park has a major focus on environmental sustainability, with the Stadium achieving a 6 Star Green Star ‘Design' and 'As Built’ rating from the Australian Green Building Council, through an integrated strategy of building material performance, natural ventilation, sustainable energy generation, water storage and reuse, and building management strategies.


The first phase of the project – completed in December 2018 – comprised a state-of-the-art Australian Rules Football oval, a pavilion with 9 change rooms, elevated club rooms and function room, and a FIFA-1 standard and accredited synthetic football pitch.

Phase two – completed in early 2020 – includes a new research and teaching building; an indoor stadium, complete with six, multi-purpose highball courts; spaces for university and commercial tenancies, and a plaza area offering a lookout to the Sports Park.

State-of-the-art sports science technology, including a Hypoxico High Altitude Performance System, advanced physiology and biomechanics labs and capacity for a dual-energy X-Ray Absorptiometry DEXA Unit, is integrated seamlessly into the design. The outdoor football fields flow right into the building, with oversize doors that allow athletes on movement analysis force plates to kick balls right out of the building.

Maguire says by making elite sport visible and accessible, and encouraging recreational participation, the central hub encourages the natural collisions and cross-pollination that bring about discovery and inspiration.

“This is in line with the big trend in the world of sports facilities: moving from pure sport and including other “wellness” facilities to attract the wider community.”

“The design of La Trobe’s Sports Park was created to inspire, bring together and enhance performance for participants in sports at every level, from elite athletes to active community members.

“The ability to host multiple sporting events is a hallmark of a good sports facility, but this great facility brings to life the client’s grander vision for fostering and building community. The La Trobe Sports Park contributes to the University’s vision to be the University City of the Future, which will establish it as the epicentre of Melbourne’s growing Northern suburbs.”


Dean, School of Allied Health, Human Services and Sport at La Trobe Professor Russell Hoye agrees the Sport Park creates “a unique integrated environment” that is incredibly beneficial for the University’s academia.

“This new stadium allows us to co-locate our research and teaching laboratories for biomechanics, exercise physiology, strength and conditioning and sports analytics amongst our new sports infrastructure, creating a unique integrated environment for collaboration with the sports industry and the community.

“These facilities will transform the student experience, enabling our undergraduate students to undertake their work integrated learning experiences on campus with our sports partners and extensive range of user groups accessing the sports park.

“Our PhD students and staff will be able to work seamlessly between their sport science laboratories and our sports stadium and outdoor facilities, extending the nature and quality of our sport science research."


Acting Director La Trobe Sport, Andrew Tomlinson, said at the recent virtual tour of the new Stadium that the facilities enabled La Trobe to: truly put sport on show.

“The stadium was operational for key milestones, such as the launch of local sporting competitions, along with our sport and exercise science facility ready for students to face classes in February.

“The main entry plaza importantly connects the entire Sports Park to the heart of the community campus just over Kingsbury Drive. The spectacular timber canopy provides plenty of covered space for campus events, with the full-height glazing giving the main entrance a real presence. The view at night is particularly stunning with the glow from the internal courts reflecting off the timber canopies.

“The stadium has six high ball courts split into two three-court halls. One court is designed to install 2,500 retractable seats to create a show-court. The court is also fitted out with Clear-sky technology for data mining.

“The courts are separated by a spine of four large, interchangeable gender-neutral change rooms with toilet and shower facilities, accessible and family change areas, event control offices and ample storage to allow for a seamless training, event or competition day.

“Both halls are in the process of being fitted out with key motion technology. This technology, also utilised by the Golden State Warriors, will allow for professional quality streaming for broadcast and instant play review for coaching, along with a raft of teaching and research outcomes.

“The strength and conditioning lab is fitted out with high-end equipment from industry leaders. The large glazed retractable walls open up onto the synthetic pitch and also the start of the 40m running track. This space is designed to enable high quality teaching and research along with facilitating elite-level high performance coaching for large groups.

“Also adjoining this lab is the sport analytics control room, set out for real life data tracking, analytics of the action outside.

“The biomechanics lab features numerous inground floor plates and two 3D motion capture systems to allow non-restrictive capture of almost any movement: at full speed on the running track, kicking or throwing movements out onto the synthetic pitch or the analysis of jumping or turning activities on the Mondo sport floor.

“Separating the two labs are offices for our technical staff, storage and prep rooms, all integral to the successful operations and flexibility of these spaces.

“We have three physiology labs and the research lab has the environmental chamber. This simulates both heat and altitude to replicate very specific conditions around the world. There are also two large exercise physiology teaching labs, along with biochemistry and lab analysis areas. This is a human performance testing, teaching and researchers dream.

“Directly above the exercise and physiology labs, and separated by a hallway which overlooks the two court halls from elevation, are two large multi-purpose teaching seminar rooms. It’s important to point out that the impressive design of the building that allows the required double-height for the two court halls, strength and conditioning, lab and bio-mechanic lab and the impressive foyer area, integrate with the double storey area of the teaching spaces, offices, plant and amenity, all in one simple single mass.

“And finally, upstairs are a couple of boardrooms, break out office spaces and shared kitchen and amenity area for both La Trobe staff and partner tenants. This outdoor deck area overlooking the synthetic pitch with city views is a real treat.

“Everybody is incredibly proud of what has been created and what it means to both the University and the wider community.”