Cambridge, the 'it' town for elite athletes

First time: Olympian Rob Waddell, Livingstone Building director Mike Livingstone and New Zealand’s  track cycling world champion Aaron Gate make their way around the newly completed velodrome track.
First time: Olympian Rob Waddell, Livingstone Building director Mike Livingstone and New Zealand’s track cycling world champion Aaron Gate make their way around the newly completed velodrome track.

Cambridge is fast becoming the "it" place to live for elite athletes, and it is expected to be in even higher demand once the velodrome is complete.

Elite rowers have long based themselves in the small town, just 15 minutes from Hamilton, to be close to where they train at Lake Karapiro.

And BMX rider Sarah Walker once remarked that a move to the town was responsible for the improvement in her performance because of the boost of seeing Olympic rowers around town.

Now it seems other athletes are set to bask in the same glow - and so is the real estate industry, with the influx of athletes to the town pushing up rental prices.

Cambridge real estate agent Graham Ban said at least 20 families have moved to town recently because of the velodrome, buying or renting properties.

House prices have been on the rise over the past year, and while the reason for the rise isn't just because of the velodrome, he said it has definitely been a factor.

"There have been at least 20-odd families move to town, plenty of them through this office," Mr Ban said.

"We've even had someone think of buying a bigger complex. They were moving here for their kids to train at the centre, and thought they could rent out an apartment to other people moving here for the centre."

Ban said the price of renting a three bedroom house has risen by about $50 over the past two years. With a lack of rentals on the market as most get snapped up, he said those prices will only rise further in the future.

Triathlon New Zealand's new high-performance programme will eventually be based at the recently completed velodrome beside St Peter's School from March, but in the meantime a number of the athletes are living in Cambridge and using various facilities.

Some of those renting are triathletes Sophie Corbidge, Sam Ward and Aaron Barclay who are living and training together, having moved to town a couple of months ago.

They are part of the Triathlon New Zealand High Performance training group, and hope to be future Commonwealth and Olympic Games champions.

For Corbidge and Ward it's their first time flatting away from home, meaning Barclay has to crack the whip at times around the house.

On the bike or in the pool, however, they are in their element.

"It's pretty new for the younger ones like Sam," Barclay said of flatting."We all knew each other before moving here, so we were already friends. But now we are really good mates."

Eight triathletes have made the move to Cambridge, while the elite athletes travel in and out for training camps.

Corbidge said it had been a great experience so far.

"It's been pretty awesome, actually. We didn't realise when we first moved here how good it would be, and how well it would all be run. It's pretty spot-on for us. We're literally two minutes from the swimming pool, and we can ride and run anywhere around our house. It's been great."

Coaches and management have also made the move to Cambridge, buying homes in town, Corbidge said.

Cambridge Chamber of Commerce president LesleyAnn Thomas said the project was proving to be "great value" for the wider region and the business community.

"We are already seeing the positive spin-off that this project has brought to the region through the construction process, the relocation of families and several exciting new job opportunities for those already resident in Cambridge and surrounding areas," she said.

Waipa District Council Mayor Jim Mylchreest said he had also seen the benefits start to filter through to the community.

"It's a fantastic project for Waipa and I think for the wider region. It's going to attract a lot of new business and people into the district and we're already seeing signs of that," he said.

Apart from economic benefits, Mr Mylchreest said the calibre of people the velodrome would attract was going to bring massive social benefits to the area.

"Elite athletes associated with the facility add a huge amount as role models to the district, they are fantastic people to deal with and are always available to meet with school groups and inspire youth to get out and get active."

Sport Waikato general manager Mike Maguire said the facility was a drawcard for visitors, especially top cyclists visiting the district for the first time.

"There are real opportunities for all forms of cycling to develop and grow at elite and grassroots level in our region - the Avantidrome (velodrome) will be a real catalyst for this evolution," he said.

Waikato Times