Rod Laver Arena champions accessibility with world-class cool down facilities

by Helena Morgan
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Capitalising on the palpable Australian Open buzz all-too-familiar to a January in Melbourne, the Rod Laver Arena has announced the launch of ice baths for athletes that place inclusivity and accessibility at the forefront of design.

The announcement marks a new era for Rod Laver Arena, one of Australia’s premier sporting venues, as it now provides facilities that can be used by athletes of all abilities. This move demonstrates that when married with a tweak in the philosophy behind venue-design, accessible design does not eclipse, yet rather enhances, the aesthetic appeal of a facility.

Melbourne and Olympic Parks director of infrastructure Nathan Dallas says the ice baths (which play an essential role in a player’s recovery routine through reducing pain and inflammation and preventing heat exhaustion) came to fruition through consultations with Tennis Australia, wheelchair athletes, and Get Skilled Access (GSA) founder  – and Wheelchair Tennis Grand Slam Champion – Dylan Alcott OAM. 

“Our vision was to create a space that caters to the needs of athletes while upholding the highest standards of accessibility and prioritising dignity,” says Dallas.

Peak comfort and usability 

The arena previously relied on a single elevated ice bath room with four individual baths to cool down athletes. Ergonomics and accessibility is now achieved through offering three individual ice bath rooms with five separate ice baths. The baths themselves are locally manufactured custom-designed stainless steel vessels, and each ice bath room has been  fitted out with an individual system to suit the athlete’s needs.

To guarantee ease-of-use for athletes of all abilities, the baths are fitted with camera feeds so nearby attendants can remain cognisant of the safety and comfort of athletes. Additionally, the rooms have a duress button to alert attendants in the case of an emergency. 

The baths have also been raised to facilitate seamless seated transfer and minimise reliance on hoists and attendant assistance. And, the dry treatment zones, located opposite the baths in close proximity to the courts, have also been better integrated into the venue design, offering another layer of enhanced accessibility. 

A fusion of accessible principles with inspiring design

Aesthetics were not sacrificed when aspiring towards the delivery of world-class accessible amenities – Dallas underscores how the design sought to enrich the space for both users and worldwide admirers.

Fully tiled walls and floors, coupled with high-spec finishes and specialised lighting, maintain amenity cleanliness and optimum quality, and prove that dedication to accessible design still leaves ample room for aesthetic value. The design of ice baths maintains the world-class standard reflective of a coveted global event like the Australian Open

Photography supplied by Melbourne and Olympic Parks.

Shane Hryhorec could not find accessible real estate anywhere in Adelaide, so he created his own. Find out how.

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