A stunning new £2.2m Youth Complex, built in north Lurgan by Clann Éireann, has just opened.
The building - which runs across two floors - is a state-of-the-art facility catering for more than 500 young people involved in the club.
Already the youth are flocking to the new centre with the summer schemes regularly packed. It’s modern vibrant feel and hi-tech facility is proving very popular.
On the ground floor there are changing rooms, toilets, disabled access, reception area, offices, a kitchen and the main sports hall.
Upstairs has a youth provision with a large social area where young people can watch TV, chill out, play pool as well as training rooms for group work and running workshops.
The upstairs facility also allows for health and safety and child protection. It means if the public are playing football in the main hall, they will not have access without being monitored.
In one of the most socially deprived areas of Lurgan, Clann Éireann Youth Club has been a haven for generations of young people across 50 years.
However their building at St Colman’s Hall had become increasingly dilapidated.
Youth Worker in Charge, Stephen McNally is incredibly proud of the building and how it will help the youth in north Lurgan.
He said the facility will be open seven days a week and already their summer programme has attracted hundreds of youngsters.
“Clann Éireann has been a great asset to this area for 50 years and this new facility will be here for another 50 years,” said Stephen, adding that the area area has around 3,500 young people under 25 - 40% of the north Lurgan population.
Dee McKerr, former Chair of Youth Club, has spearheaded the project. He explained that the idea of a new building was first mooted around six years ago.
Initially there were talks on refurbishing the current building. “It had been built by blood, sweat and tears of local people, all volunteers, and eventually opened in 1953, with additional facilities added on over the years.
"The current building is spread over a number of levels, is extremely cold and there are disability access issues. It was decided that refurbishing would not be value for money.”
After exhausting other avenues, they approached the Department of Education.
“As a result of a lengthy engagement Minister John O’Dowd announced two years ago that his department was prepared to fund a new development.
Mr McKerr said they worked with Paul McGilton, senior architect with the Education Authority, and it was decided that, for the next generation, there would need to be a purpose-built centre.
Taking over part of the pitch proved somewhat controversial to some members, however the vast majority agreed that it was needed in order to provide state-of-the-art facilities for the youth of the future.
"There were a lot of people with such a stake in the facilities here. They put huge efforts into building it over the years. People had to be reassured that it was going to be of serious benefit to the local community and to everybody who uses the club,” said Youth Club Chairman Martin O’Neill.
“Many members of Clann Éireann have had a lifetime association with the Youth Club, the GAA and St Colman’s Hall, and we wanted to respect the legacy made by the people such as Alf Murray, Ambrose Lavery, Pat Mc Mahon, Brian Curran, Danny Mc Kavanagh, Sean Lenehan, all our Youth Leaders past and present and many others.”