Wits to build a new cutting-edge sports complex  

The sports facility is set to be a flagship Wits centenary project for prospectus student athletes. The university celebrated its centenary last year.  

The unveiled plaque of The Brian and Dorothy Zylstra Sports Complex at Wits Education. Photo: Ayanda Mgwenya

Wits has received a whooping R250 million donation towards the building of The Wits Brian and Dorothy Zylstria Sports Complex for student athletes. The complex is set to boost the university’s athletic prospects and support the next generation of athletes. The announcement was officially made during the launch ceremony hosted at Wits Education Campus, on May 4.   

The director of Wits Sport and Health, Professor John Patricios said the donor — Zylstra’s family foundation Skye — has enormously contributed not only to the enrichment of the future generation athletes but also towards remodeling Wits University’s disposition in sports.  

During the ceremony, the representative of the Zylstra family, Phil Zylstria said, “My father [Brian Zylstria] studied at Wits in the 1960s, and the university changed his life. He was a governor at the university, and he raised money for the university.” 

He added that his father has always been thankful for what the university has done for him, and that is why he started the foundation in 1997. 

The Zylstria family has been giving Wits student athletes scholarships since 1998, through the foundation, as a form of gratitude towards the university’s influence in the late Wits alumnus’ life.  

The family believes this sports complex will benefit the surrounding communities in Johannesburg and bring positive change.  

Patricios, emphasized the transformative impact of the sports facility, stating that, “this complex will revolutionize what Wits can offer in sports and exercise-medicine.”  

The complex has three pillars of focus: academic, research and clinical management. In a statement released by the university on the day of the ceremony, it said the sports facility will incorporate sports science training, research, and practical clinical applications. It will consist of state-of-the-arts therapeutic amenities, a swimming center, and a residential area with 44 beds dedicated to accommodating top-tier athletes. 

The sports complex will accommodate Wits student athletes and other high performing tertiary students around the community of Johannesburg who may come from intuitions without adequate sports facilities. 

At the end of the ceremony, the dean of student affairs at Wits University, Jerome September, delighted attendees by unveiling a remarkable surprise during the event – a Wits Sports book authored by Dr Jonty Winty. The book chronicles the rich history of sports at Wits University, dating back a century. As a thoughtful gesture, each attendee was gifted a copy of it, allowing them to cherish and reflect upon the university’s sporting heritage.  

The architectural plans have been distributed and the building construction is set to commence early January 2024 and set to be completed in 2025/26. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Representative of the Zystra family and Sky Foundation, Phil Zylstra, Wits vice-chancellor Zeblon Vilakazi and Jon Patricios, Professor of Sport and Exercise Medicine, School of Clinical Medicine, Faculty Health Sciences at Wits unveil the Wits Brian and Dorothy Zylstra Sports Complex plaque. Photo: Ayanda Mgwenya