Portrush's £500k revamp as Open plans get in full swing
Portrush is to receive a £500,000 facelift before the town hosts the Open Golf Championship in 2019.
Golf's oldest championship will make a historic return to Northern Ireland after nearly 70 years, and the Department for Communities' money will be used to overhaul the centre of the Co Antrim seaside resort and its train station.
The battle for the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush is expected to be the biggest sporting event ever held in Northern Ireland, generating more than £70m for the economy.
Yesterday, Communities Minister Paul Givan announced £500,000 for design work on the major upgrade project.
"With the announcement in October last year that Royal Portrush will host the Open Golf Championship in 2019, and possibly twice again in the future, we have an opportunity to sustainably develop the tourism economy of Portrush and the north coast in a way that will bring substantial benefits to Northern Ireland as a whole," Mr Givan said.
"To achieve this, we need to invest in the infrastructure of the town, and these schemes in the town centre and at the train station will provide the foundation to allow us to do just that."
Northern Ireland will be at the centre of the global sporting spotlight from July 18 to 21, 2019, when the Open is staged outside of Scotland and England for only the second time in the Championship's 155-year history. The Open was last played at Royal Portrush in 1951.
Hundreds of thousands of golf fans from throughout Ireland and from around the world are expected to descend upon the town for the contest.
Causeway DUP councillor Mark Field also applauded the investment announcement.
"This is good news for the town, and I hope and trust it will be a prelude to further investment in Portrush in advance of the Open," he said.
"The eyes of the world will be on Portrush when the Open comes to the north coast.
"It's very important that Portrush is seen as a premiere location, and that an enduring legacy is left behind for the future."
Local hotelier and councillor Trevor Clarke said that yesterday's announcement was an important development for the resort and marked the beginning of upgrade projects in the seaside town as the date of the Open tournament nears.
"This is an exciting investment which will help realise the town's great tourist potential," said the DUP man, who also runs the Magherabuoy House Hotel in Portrush.
It was reported earlier this year that up to £27m had been earmarked for regeneration work in the north coast town, but it is understood that the multimillion-pound package has yet to be signed off by the Executive.