Work on the much-anticipated £2.3 million upgrade to a south Belfast community centre is due to be completed next week.
The extension to the Lower Ormeau's Shaftesbury Community and Recreation Centre — also set to create nine new jobs — aims to provide “real opportunities” for south Belfast communities.
Managed day-to-day by the Lower Ormeau Residents' Action Group (LORAG), the upgrade includes mainly new sports and leisure facilities.
The extension includes an outdoor synthetic pitch, a fitness suite, a hall that can be used for social activities and changing rooms and showers that cater for people with disabilities.
The Balfour Avenue-based centre uses a social economy model which means that any money coming into it is ploughed back into the local community.
LORAG's Gerard Rice described the extension as a “major investment in the local community” that will encourage lifestyle changes and tackle health and social issues in south Belfast through various programmes. “We see it as creating real lifestyle changes,” he said. “It's going to give real opportunities to communities in south Belfast.”
Ronan McKenna, LORAG community sports development manager, said: “We will have programmes for under-represented groups such as people with disabilities and the unemployed. We will also be tackling crime through diversionary programmes such as midnight soccer to prevent young people from engaging in anti-social behaviour.”
Mr Rice added: “We're about to start commencing a recruitment process for nine new positions.”
The majority of funding — more than £1.7m — was provided by Sport NI while the Department for Social Development provided more than £400,000 and the Department of Education provided £70,000.