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The Margaret Whitlam Recreation centre officially opened to the public on Tuesday providing the community with a sporting and meeting venue.

Formerly known as the Waverley Park Pavilion, the centre includes a full-size indoor sports court, a community room and a function room for local clubs, groups, meetings and conferences.

Plans for redeveloping the site began in 2007 and the Waverley Council-funded project that has been under construction since last August. The Council sought to deliver a multi-purpose recreational space that would serve as a community hub, not just a fitness centre.

The Mayor of Waverley, John Wakefield said: “It was decided it would serve not only the needs of local sporting clubs, but also meet the needs of our wider community.”

National BuildPlan Group Pty Ltd was awarded the tender for the new centre in May 2010.

Bondi resident Natasha Tchernobryvko expressed concern over the scarce parking near the Centre. She said the newly developed centre will create more problems for the community.

“It’s hard enough trying to find parking around Waverley and Bondi as it is, particularly on weekends with all the sports matches.

There’s going to be more people, more cars and more congestion. I don’t see it as a good thing.”

But local fitness instructor, Ernest Avetisian, said the centre would be beneficial since it would foster greater sporting participation. “It’s great that they’ve now got the indoor courts which we can hire.

It’s going to be a real treat for my fitness classes.”

Convenor of the Bondi Beach Precinct, Lenore Kulakauskas, said the centre can strengthen community links and raise the profile of local spaces.

“People need to be made aware that it’s there. The centre has certainly got potential, and it’s up to the community groups to realise this,” she said.

“I suspect that the best way for it to progress is…for the community to get behind it and form a ‘Friends of the Waverley Sports Pavilion’ group.

It will help in connecting the wider community in a less formal manner and one that isn’t restricted by all these council regulations.”

Ms Kulakauskas said that the development has allowed the centre to take on a new cultural meaning, particularly with its dedication to Mrs Whitlam.

Mr Wakefield said: “Margaret Whitlam was a Bondi girl and will always be known as a Bondi girl.”

“In the 1990s she was recognised as a national living treasure … a centre built for the use and benefit of the whole community should be named after a person whose benevolence extended to all,” he said.

Another feature of the centre is the O’Sullivan Horsell grandstand, which has unobstructed views of the ocean.

As an integral part of the complex, the O’Sullivan Horsell grandstand will commemorate the contributions of Phil O’Sullivan and Bob Horsell who have together given over one hundred years of service to the Waverley community.

The building is situated between the Waverley Park water reservoir and the traditional grassed memorial gardens.

By Daniel Paperny