The council has agreed, in principle, to work with Crusaders FC on plans to develop new sports facilities at Threemilewater Playing Fields.
The Times revealed last week that the local authority is in talks with the Shore Road club about the possibility of teaming up on a multi-million pound project at the site.
With the council looking at upgrading facilities at Threemilewater, and Crusaders potentially having access to significant funding streams, a partnership between the two organisations could see the shale pitches at the council-owned playing fields transformed as part of a major redevelopment that would cater for football and other sports.
It’s thought the £3.5million project could include construction of a 3G pitch with a 250-seater enclosure, suitable for hosting women’s, intermediate and junior football, as well as a football centre of excellence, a multi-sports area and associated changing facilities.
Construction of the new community sports hub would not mean the club moving from its current home ground, Seaview, on the Shore Road.
Other potential partners that could get involved in the project include Crusaders-Newtownabbey Strikers, Carnmoney Football Development Centre, Whiteabbey FC and Abbey Community College (due to open in September 2015 with the amalgamation of Monkstown Community School and Newtownabbey Community High).
At their meeting on Tuesday, August 26, councillors considered a confidential proposal submitted by Crusaders regarding the potential development of sporting provision at the Monkstown site.
As well as agreeing, in principle, to the proposal to examine the feasibility and viability of establishing a community sports hub at Threemilewater, members also agreed that £233,700 previously allocated for new changing facilities at the pitches be used as a financial contribution to the scheme if required.
Details of the terms of the lease, or ownership of the site, will be presented to a future meeting.
It’s understood that Crusaders FC is also considering another potential development site - one within the Belfast City Council area.
A spokesman for Crusaders said he couldn’t make any comment on the issue due to the ongoing negotiations with both councils.
It’s understood a decision on a preferred site is expected to be taken by the club’s members in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, Ballyclare TUV Councillor David Arthurs has vowed to challenge the council’s decision to hold talks with Crusaders about a possible partnership.
Mr Arthurs, a member of the Antrim and Newtownabbey District Council, said that the local authority should be focussing its efforts on working with the borough’s only senior football club, Ballyclare Comrades.
“The council needs to look at how it can help the only senior football club in the borough,” he said. “I’d also like to ask if the current standing Ballyclare councillors are involved in this decision and, if so, why are they not looking out for the town and people which elected them to the council?”
Stressing that the Comrades - the team he has supported since the early 1990s - “will be pushing for a place in the top flight of local football by 2019”, Cllr Arthurs added: “I am sick sore and tired of the club being treated as second class in favour of supporting a club from outside the council’s boundary. I have sent a very strongly worded letter to the Chief Executive of the council to ask that this proposal be reconsidered and that the council start looking out for the people of the borough of Newtownabbey.”