Start main page content

Wits breaks ground on R250 million sports complex

- Wits University

The Wits Brian and Dorothy Zylstra Sports Complex is an integrated facility for training, research, and clinical practice.

The Complex promises world-class research and therapeutic facilities, an aquatics centre and a residence for elite athletes. A ground-breaking ceremony at the Wits Education Campus in Parktown, Johannesburg, on 4 May 2023 kicks off the envisaged state-of-the-art Wits Brian and Dorothy Zylstra Sports Complex.

The Sports Complex is a flagship Wits Centenary Project and will feature the Zylstra Sport and Health Building, the Zylstra Aquatics and Rowing Centre, and a 44-bed Zylstra Residence for elite athletes.

Construction is expected to be completed by 2026.

The Sports Complex is made possible by a R250 million legacy investment from the Zylstra family and the Skye Foundation.

Phil Zylstra, on behalf of the Zylstra family and the Skye Foundation, says: “We feel that the Wits Brian and Dorothy Zylstra Sports Complex will be a landmark building and a resource for not only Wits, but for the schools and sporting organisations from South Africa and abroad that will use it. It will be a fitting testament to my parents, Brian and Dorothy, and a sign of gratitude for the role the University played in many of our lives.”

Jon Patricios is Professor of Sport and Exercise Medicine at Wits and Director of Wits Sport and Health (WiSH). The Zylstra Sport and Health Building will house WiSH in future.

“This one-of-a-kind Sports Complex will usher in an exciting future for the next 100 years of Wits Sport and Health, servicing our greater Wits community through dynamic teaching, research, high performance training, and clinical practice,” says Patricios.

“Apart from providing our students with world-class sports facilities, it will serve as a hub for sporting events, both at the University and at national level. It will enable us to host inter-university, inter-school, and national tournaments, thereby bringing together athletes from across the country and promoting sportsmanship and healthy competition. Physical activity – as the most powerful tool we have for disease prevention and intervention – will also be brought more into focus and expand on existing research strengths in the Faculty of Health Sciences.”

Wits Brian and Dorothy Zylstra Sports Complex

WiSH is under the auspices of the School of Therapeutic Sciences in the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Head of School, Professor Hellen Myezwa says, “We will be able to develop the cross-disciplinary training and research focus areas in the various aspects of sport, sport physiology, sport injuries, and the use of exercise and movement in rehabilitation.”

100 years of Wits Sports

The ground-breaking event for this Sports Complex Centenary Project includes the launch of the book Wits Sport 100: 1922 - 2022, by sports historian Jonty Winch.

Book: Wits Sport 100

Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal, says, “Today we celebrate one of the largest family donations to Wits. We thank the Zylstra family and the Skye Foundation for their generosity and ongoing support of their alma mater.

Naming this as the Wits Brian and Dorothy Zylstra Sports Complex is a fitting way to honour this incredible and significant gift, named for two remarkable Wits alumni, as well as encompassing the spirit of academic and sporting collaboration across faculties in support of the University’s strategic priorities.

Today we mark the beginning of a new era for our University’s sports culture. I am confident that this Sports Complex will be a catalyst for our students' growth and development – not just as athletes, but as individuals.”

About Brian and Dorothy Zylstra

Brian Zylstra (1935-2012) graduated from Wits University with a Bachelor of Commerce in 1957 and his wife, Dorothy Zylstra, with a Bachelor of Arts Honours in 1964. A keen sportsman who excelled at rugby, Brian captained the Wits First XV team, earning Transvaal colours and Wits Full Blue. He established the Skye rugby bursaries at Wits through Skye Products in 1987, which were extended in 1989 to include athletics and hockey. The Skye Foundation and the Zylstra family contributions over the years have included causes dear to both Brian and Dorothy; sports scholarships, the arts, and research development. Wits students who have benefited from these scholarships include rugby Springboks and several Olympic athletes. In 2007, Brian and Dorothy were awarded the University’s Gold Medal for their continued support of their alma mater.