The new and improved Shaftesbury Community and Recreation Centre has been officially opened by special VIP guest Irish president Mary McAleese.
A total investment of £2.2 million has been used to provide a wide range of new facilities to enhance the service provision to the local community.
Also on hand to celebrate the occasion were the project funders Sport Northern Ireland, the Department for Social Development and the Department of Education.
The centre, based on Balfour Avenue off the Lower Ormeau, is managed by the Lower Ormeau Residents Action Group (LORAG).
Founded in 1987, LORAG said it has worked tirelessly over the years to promote and develop the centre so that it can deliver a range of fundamental programmes for the local community, such as community sports development, youth and after-schools projects, Sure Start creche and support services, and GEMS employment and training advice. Speaking at the official opening event, LORAG chair John Gormley said: “This area has a high level of health problems, and our social agenda is to help people get fit and feel better.
“Exercise is great for the body as well as the mind and by keeping our prices down, we want to make fitness accessible for all.”
A major element of the project was the £1.7m funding from Sport Northern Ireland for extensive sporting provision in the form of new third generation soccer pitches with floodlighting and additional changing facilities, a community fitness suite, and a new sports studio.
A further £155,000 has been provided over a five-year period for a sports development officer who will assist in the sports development objectives of the centre.
Eamonn McCartan, chief executive of Sport NI, added: “Sport Northern Ireland is delighted to support projects such as this and contribute to the achievement of vital community and sports development objectives.
“The facilities provided here will meet the needs of people from all social groups and all ages residing in the Lower Ormeau and wider south and east Belfast areas.
“Ultimately the centre will contribute to increasing levels of participation in sport and physical exercise, and hence improved health within our society, improved academic performance of individuals taking part, reduced crime in communities, and socio-economic regeneration of our |communities.”