Local schools, community groups and dignitaries gathered today for the official opening of the V36 park at the Valley Leisure Centre.
Lord Lieutenant of Co Antrim, Mrs Joan Christie OBE joined with Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Councillor Thomas Hogg to officially open the new £4m facility.
The park is the result of a major investment in the area, and includes a floodlit 3G pitch which will be used for football, rugby and Gaelic sports, a civic linear park and an adventure play area.
Alderman Mark Cosgrove believes that the park is an asset to the area, and has praised the cross-community ethos of the facility.
“On a morning like today where we have children from every background enjoying the facilities, that is something we hope will continue for the next 40, 50 or 100 years. This space was totally under-utilised, and it was a bit of a grey area as to whether it was a shared-space. Different groups didn’t feel comfortable coming into it, but hopefully we have broken that log-jam and we’ll see families and everybody using it from now on,” Alderman Cosgrove said.
TUV Councillor David Arthurs is thankful for the £3.58m of funding from the European Peace Fund and is very impressed with the end product.
“The funding from the European Peace Fund was very much needed. We wouldn’t be able to have projects like this without receiving funding from bodies like that. The investment that we also put in as a council has come to the forefront and I am really impressed with the park we now have,” Councillor Arthurs explained.
SDLP Councillor Noreen McClelland stressed that projects like this in Newtownabbey are very important.
“There is a real buzz around V36 today and it is extremely important that we have projects like this for the whole community to use. This piece of land has had problems in the past, but it has been transformed into something positive. It is an exciting venture for Antrim and Newtownabbey and I know that it will be very successful,” she said.
Party colleague, Councillor Roisin Lynch praised the efforts made by all the staff involved to create the “fantastic facility.”
“I would like to thank all of the staff involved in transforming this area into the fantastic facility we now have. A lot of work was put in, in such a short space of time and all of the workers should be congratulated,” Councillor Lynch said.
Dancers from the Elite Dance Company performed for the large number of people in attendance.
Their coach Jennifer Milligan was very pleased with how they had performed and with the new facilities which are now available for arts groups in the area.
“The girls performed really well in front of the large crowd. I am very impressed with the new facilities, and hopefully they will help more people get involved with the arts and other activities,” she said.
Melissa Anderson was performing with the dance group.
“It is a fantastic facility to perform at. I think it will encourage more young people from the area to be more active,” Melissa said.
Heather Duff from Ballyclare was at the park with her daughter Caty.
“The park is a great facility for the whole community. There is something for everyone here,” Heather said.
For more coverage of the opening ceremony check out next week’s Newtownabbey Times (on sale September 30).