0 Avoniel Leisure Centre redevelopment almost finished

A new football centre at the old Avoniel Leisure Centre is part of an £8million leisure transformation project by Belfast City Council

Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Kate Nicholl and GLL's Gareth Kirk at Avoniel Leisure Centre Image: Justin Kernoghan

Work on the redevelopment of the former Avoniel Leisure Centre into a football centre of excellence is coming to an end with it set to open in a few months.

Belfast City Council has invested £8million into the East Belfast site in order to address a lack of pitches in the area for local teams and it is also hoped the facilities will be used by the wider community for other events.

The centre of excellence will include an Intermediate standard 3G football pitch, three covered and two uncovered 3G five-a-side pitches, an outdoor 3G seven-a-side pitch, multi-purpose rooms, meeting spaces and changing spaces.

A number of the pitches have already been laid, with the remainder taking place next month once further works have been completed.

The main pavilion is currently being internally fitted ahead of its official opening.

Lord Mayor Kate Nicholl said: "We are so excited, this is part of our £105million investment in the leisure transformation project and it is really the council's investment into the health and wellbeing of our citizens.

"I think the approach we have taken with GLL, in ensuring we have centres of excellence across the city, allows people to experience the city as a whole, rather than sticking to one community centre.

Football centre of excellence set to open at Avoniel in East Belfast Images: Justin Kernoghan

"You are getting first class facilities across Belfast, which is encouraging people to explore the city a bit more as well and the overriding message of looking after your health and getting involved in activities is incredibly positive.

"This £8million is so exciting, bringing regeneration to an area that needs it, giving locals in the area first class facilities. There is also a psychological impact to everything, you would be proud to live near this and it shows we are investing in the city and looking after everyone."

Gareth Kirk of GLL, a social enterprise which has partnered with the council to develop and run its leisure facilities, said: "What is great with all of the projects in the leisure transformation programme is that they are all different.

"We did that on purpose in order to make sure there are unique selling points in each corner of the city, to make sure people are encouraged to travel."

"Here in Avoniel we have a number of new pitches going in, 11-a-side, seven-a-side and five-a-side, which means we can host multiple sports at different levels, in terms of age and different backgrounds. We can do everything from danderball to football and have sports days down here with lots of different people using it."

"The contrast of the new centre compared to the old leisure centre is night and day, and this is an example of all the leisure transformation going on. We are bringing leisure centres from the 80s and 90s into the modern day which would rival any from across Europe."

Avoniel will be the fifth of seven new centres that form Belfast City Council's Leisure Transformation Programme. It follows the opening of Olympia in 2017, Lisnasharragh and Brook in 2019 and Andersonstown in 2020.

The upgrade to Templemore Baths is due to be completed in autumn, while the finalproject will see a new facility built at the Girdwood Community Hub site in North Belfast, with work due to get underway next year.

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