North Down Borough Council is to receive up to £15 million towards the costs of building a 50m Olympic sized swimming pool in Bangor.
The news was confirmed by Sports Minister Gregory Campbell during a visit to Valentine Playing Fields where the new pool and leisure complex will be situated.
“I am pleased that we have now reached this point which will allow the project to move forward to full planning and development stage,” the minister said.
“This will be Northern Ireland’s first olympic sized swimming pool; it is also the first project in the Elite Facilities Capital Programme which will provide new and upgraded sports facilities across a range of sports in Northern Ireland over the next few years.
“As a regional centre of excellence, it will be a state-of-the-art facility to be enjoyed by all the people of Northern Ireland.”
The minister said the project would go a long way towards addressing Northern Ireland's need for world class sporting facilities delivering “a sporting infrastructure previously unavailable in Northern Ireland”.
“I am hopeful that in the not too far distant future I will be announcing other proposals for sporting facilities currently being examined by Sport Northern Ireland under phase two of the Elite Facilities programme,” he added.
North Down MLA Peter Weir welcomed the announcement. He said: “The commitment of the Minister, who has been only in post for just over a fortnight, is extremely welcome, and shows decisive leadership on behalf of the new minister.
“This announcement ends a period of uncertainty over the level of funding, and shows the level of faith in the business case put together by the council.
“This is a vote of confidence in the visionary proposals put together by the council, and make feasible the delivery of first class services for the people of North Down. It will indeed mark a flagship proposal for the whole of Northern Ireland.”
In June 2007 the then Sports Minister, Edwin Poots MLA confirmed North Down Borough Council as the preferred bidder to build Northern Ireland's first 50 metre swimming pool.
It is anticipated that the building of the 50 metre swimming pool is completed by 2010 in preparation for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.