Portrush hails £17m revamp ahead of Open showpiece
Traders in Portrush have credited a £17 million revamp with breathing new life into the seaside resort ahead of the historic return of golf's Open Championship.
The two-and-a-half-year project to regenerate the town has been completed just in time to welcome the world's best golfers in July.
The popular holiday spot has undergone a major facelift thanks to a £6 million public realm investment while golf fans travelling to the Open by train will arrive at a new £5.6 million station.
More than 100 business owners have also used £500,000 of grants to spruce up their shops.
Other elements of the project have delivered improvements to car parking and traffic signage, while developers have used grant funding to transform derelict and vacant properties.
The Open is returning to Northern Ireland for the first time in almost 70 years.
The tournament at Royal Portrush Golf Club promises to be the biggest sporting event to be held in the region.
Andy Hill, who runs Troggs surf shop on Main Street, secured one of the revitalisation grants to repaint his premises and erect new signage.
"Together with the rest of the town we've given Portrush a real facelift," he said.
"We had fallen on darker times in the past where the town had got a wee bit tired. Now it's looking brand spanking new.
"The resort has never looked as good and it's just going to be a fantastic showcase with the Open golf coming in a couple of weeks' time."
Mr Hill said he had noticed a significant increase in tourists from outside of Northern Ireland in recent years.
"I think after this event and 600 million people watching on TV this is really going to boost tourism in Northern Ireland, without question," he said.
Approving the regeneration scheme was one of the final acts of Stormont's ill-fated powersharing government, with ministers giving it the green light in their last meeting before devolution collapsed.
The delivery was led by the Department for Communities (DfC).
Tracy Meharg, the permanent secretary at the DfC, said: "It is important that Portrush is looking its very best as the eyes of the world focus on the town.
"Over 215,000 spectators will attend the event and an anticipated TV audience of over 600 million will watch the world's best golfers take part in what is the biggest sporting event ever to be held in Northern Ireland.
"What has been achieved is incredible. This was a very ambitious programme. I am delighted with what has been delivered and I would like to thank everyone involved for their hard work to ensure the major elements of the programme were completed on time and before the 148th Open."
Chris Conway, chief executive of Translink, said the new station will help to "rejuvenate" the area.
"As we get ready to welcome thousands of visitors to the town this summer for the 148th Open, the new station will form a key part of our travel plans to get golf fans to this high-profile event," he said.
The mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Sean Bateson, said there was an air of excitement in the town ahead of the Open.
"This regeneration programme has created a new era for Portrush by transforming the streetscape and built environment," he said.
"The positive improvements to the town's appearance and infrastructure are befitting of Portrush's position as a high-quality visitor destination and we are very proud of what the programme has achieved.
"This regeneration work will allow the resort to reach its full potential as we prepare to welcome the 148th Open and beyond. We are grateful to the local community and businesses for their co-operation throughout the process and collectively we look forward to capitalising on the legacy of this programme for years to come."
Belfast Telegraph Digital