A commitment that the SuperCupNI will return to its ‘spiritual home’, the potential for regeneration, the hosting of internationals and concerts and a community hub for the town and wider area is what is on offer on the completion of Coleraine Football Club’s North West Regional Stadium project.
Members of Causeway Coast & Glens Leisure & Development Committee have unanimously given their backing and support to the Ballycastle Road club’s impressive plans following a presentation on Tuesday evening.
The club aims to develop a North West Regional Stadium as both Coleraine FC and The Showgrounds come towards their 100th anniversary and they are looking to the council for funding in the region of £1.5million.
The £7 million development, which will be delivered in three phases, was described by councillors as ‘impressive and brilliant’ leading to them agreeing to form a ‘working arrangement with the club going forward.”
Making the presentation on behalf of Coleraine Football Club were Chairman Colin McKendry, Project Architect Tim Robinson and Bobby Farren, Project Consultant who put forward the business case to Members.
Mr Farren explained: “What we are proposing is the development of a modern and safe stadium for both domestic and international football that has facilities for state of the art coaching, that has facilities to be able to host the SuperCup which we lost a number of years ago.
“We also want to be able to host international games, both smaller international games, junior internationals and women’s international games and bring crowds back to the Coleraine area.
“We want our facilities to be able to provide structured programmes 2500 hours of coaching on an annual basis for the local community and we want the state of the art facilities to be an economic stimulator because as market research suggests, for every 10,000 that attend a sporting event it is worth £1million to the local economy.
“By bringing in internationals and concerts we have the potential to generate over £3million into the local economy on an annual basis.”
Phase 1 of the project includes streetscaping, pavilion development and the development of a new 3G surface. Work has already commenced on the pitch which is expected to be completed by the end of July 2021, and this has been funded by the Club through monies secured from appearances in tournaments.
Project Architect Tim Robinson explained: “The third strand of the work would involve a full stadium redevelopment. That would include improvements to the existing clubhouse and executive boxes on the Ballycastle Road end of the ground with new commercial activity allowing week round use and the existing Jack Doherty stand refurbished.
“The pitch would be extended to meet UEFA requirements, the away end would be retained and refurbished, there would be a new seated grandstand on the south end of the ground and the Railway End would be knocked down and moved back towards the railway to allow the pitch to be extended.
“The second phase of the work is the new community hub and training facility which includes a new community pavilion with flexible multi-sport changing as well as elite sports development and science space and potentially a community room for after school clubs. There will also be a new 3G training pitch designed to UEFA category 2 standards.”
Phase 3 would be the development of a Sub Region stadium with the capacity for 6,000 to 8,000 seats.
DUP Councillor Adrian McQuillan spoke of the potential of this development to ‘enhance the whole Ballycastle Road and kick start the regeneration of that area.’
He added: “It would be great to have a stadium we could welcome the SuperCup back home to.”
Coleraine Chairman Colin McKendry confirmed the club had ‘many conversations’ with the youth tournament’s organisers.
“I’ve had many meetings with Victor (Leonard) and as soon as we have facilities capable of fielding the final at Coleraine Showgrounds, the SuperCup will be back,” he said.
Cllr McQuillan asked the Bannsiders presentation group what the timeframe would be for the £1.5m required for the project from council saying: “Obviously the longer we could spread it, the better it would be for council and the ratepayer.”
Mr Farren explained: “We see the lifespan of the project as being over 20 years but the development of the project, probably 18 to 20 months.”
PUP Councillor Russel Watton spoke of the potential the project has to regenerate ‘that side of the town’
He said: “This is a very, very exciting project, I am absolutely dumbfounded and that’s not like me. When you see the brochure and how it is presented I can’t believe it.
“I will be throwing my full weight behind this project, whatever we can do, I hope to do it. I will be supporting this 100% to the bitter end.”
Touching on the potential investment being brought to the area, DUP Councillor Aaron Callan said it was ‘impressive.’
“Coleraine is one of the most socio-deprived in the council area,” he said. Coleraine deserves a stadium it can be proud of.”
Cllr Callan suggested the Levelling Up fund would be a ‘great fit’ for the project, offering council support if needed.
Sinn Fein Councillor Sean Bateson added that the stadium project would be ‘brilliant not only for Coleraine but also the Causeway Coast & Glens area including Kilrea’.
“I often see the young ones about Kilrea wearing Coleraine tops and jerseys so maybe I should give a shout out to Skinner (Eoin) Bradley for that. Sinn Fein would be very supportive of this and as a council, it’s something we should be looking at in our grant funding.”
The Mayor, UUP Councillor Richard Holmes agreed the project would help regenerate the town and Alderman James McCorkell said it ‘would be great to see the SuperCup coming back to Coleraine’ adding; “What you have done is absolutely phenomenal and I was delighted to hear you mention a North West Stadium.
“From what you are presenting we are going to get so much more than the SuperCup, we are going to get top-notch football and other events and that can only be good for Coleraine town centre.”
SDLP Councillor Margaret Anne McKillop commended the club on their ‘drive to regenerate and bring more people to the area’, before Members agreed unanimously that council will engage and establish a working arrangement with the Club going forward.
Gillian Anderson, Local Democracy Reporter