CLAN na Gael is embarking on an exciting £300,000 building plan to create state of the art changing rooms and a massive multi-purpose community hall.
Planning permission has just been submitted for the stand-alone complex which will be situated close to the current changing rooms at the side of the Francis Street GAA club.
While the playing grounds have benefitted from a major £500,000 refurbishment, including a new MUGA (Multiple Use Games Area) Clan na Gael believe the new changing rooms and community hall will be a major boost not just to the club but the entire community.
Architect Paul McCreanor who is a member of the club, has designed a modern facility which includes two large dressing rooms with showers off both, a referee’s room, a medical or physio room plus store room and toilet facilities. The ground floor dressing rooms will have direct access to the pitch.
On the second floor will be a large multi-use function room which also will have an event control gallery.
Club Secretary Teddy Martin and Treasurer Kevin Brady spoke animatedly about plans for the new facility.
Mr Martin explained that the club had been on a shortlist for a major £1m investment which would have included the current plans plus new terracing and stands. However, the funding from Sports NI was put on hold until after the Olympics. While Clan na Gael had full planning permission for the initial plans, the club have now reapplied with the current amended plans.
Mr Brady said the club needs the changing rooms and hall and the new facility would be a major asset to both the club and the whole community.
“There are 50-100 kids out there most nights. This summer we ran a summer scheme and 160 children turned up. We have been using the schools such as St Mary’s, St Paul’s and St Francis’ who have been very good to us but there is a dire need for this,” he said.
Mr Martin said the west Lurgan area of Shankill, Wakehurst and Rectory Park was one of the most deprived in the town and there were very few facilities for young people.
He said the club had the biggest pitch which had, in the past, been second only to Armagh in the county. He said it was vital to develop the area for the benefit of the whole community.
The club, which has existed since 1922 and had the first pitch created in 1947, has been a mecca for many young sportsmen throughout the years and has trained greats such as Neil Lennon and Gerry Taggart.
The club has ten teams, two ladies teams and two camogie teams. They also run a major summer scheme with hundreds of children each year and special events at the clubhouse throughout the year. This is just a snippet of the large volume of work the club do in the community.
While the club emphasis is on GAA, they aim to develop the hall into a community hub aiming to cater for youth clubs, well being clinics, pensioners’ clubs, a creche and many more facilities.
Senior Club members met with Craigavon Council officials this week. The aim is for the Council to recognise the club as a major asset to the community which could provide a much needed focal point for one of the most deprived areas in Lurgan.
The club is also looking for partnership funding from the GAA, DSD Neighbourhood Renewal as well as Sport NI.
Mr Martin said the west Lurgan area is the only area in the town without a community hub and he believes it is the Council’s responsibility that people have an appropriate and level playing field as far as facilities are concerned.
He spoke about the great links the club has with other sporting bodies such as the local rugby and hockey clubs and how there has been a long standing relationship with other football clubs such as Sunnyside and Glenavon
“We are falling behind badly. There is a big gap to be filled and there is a major role for the Council to play in this,” said Mr Martin.
Mr Brady explained that the only area where a MUGA pitch could be developed was at Clan na Gael. “It is here to develop for the whole community.”
With these new facilities, the club would be in a position to host high profile county games which would attract a huge influx of visitors to the town.