‘Games must come to Newtownabbey’

The Valley Leisure Centre is expected to host the basketball and table tennis competitions during the World Police and Fire Games.
The Valley Leisure Centre is expected to host the basketball and table tennis competitions during the World Police and Fire Games.

LOCAL representatives have given council officers licence to negotiate with the organisers of the World Police and Fire Games in order to ensure that the prestigious event comes to Newtownabbey.

The 2013 Games, which will take place at more than 40 venues across the province from August 1 to 10, are expected to attract around 25,000 competitors and visitors from countries around the world, offering an opportunity to showcase Northern Ireland to a global audience.

The Games organising committee has requested the use of the main sports halls at the Valley Leisure Centre for the table tennis and basketball competitions, but with less than six months to go until the start of event negotiations are still ongoing about the use of the leisure centre and the charge to the organisers.

At their monthly meeting on Monday evening (February 25), councillors raised concerns that the borough could lose out on hosting the Games if the council’s price for use of the Valley isn’t favourable to the Games committee.

John Blair, Mark Cosgrove and Billy Webb all stressed how important it is that the borough is involved in the global sporting spectacular, and questioned whether or not a suggested price reduction of 50 per cent for use of the halls had been agreed by the Games organisers.

That could mean a hall hire cost of between £4,000 and £5,000. And with most public venues providing their facilities free of charge or at minimal cost, alderman Blair questioned if the Games committee had the funding to be paying out that sort of cost for venues.

Members stressed that the benefits to the borough, such as the good PR and the opportunity to showcase Newtownabbey to a global audience, far outweigh the cost of letting the Games organisers have the halls at a significantly reduced cost.

“We want the Games here and the amount to be paid should be acceptable to them (the organisers).

“We cannot afford to lose them,” said councillor Billy Webb.

“It is very, very important that we get the World Police and Fire Games to Newtownabbey,” Mayor Victor Robinson added.

Members agreed that council officers should be allowed to negotiate the price for use of the Valley with the Games organisers to ensure that the borough does not miss out on hosting the prestigious event.