A non-profit sports club has successfully converted part of the old Glenaden shirt factory into an indoor sports hall over the past year.
Carson King, the Treasurer of Clooney Soccer School, told the Sentinel that following a successful fundraising campaign, the club managed to raise enough funds to build the new indoor community facility.
In keeping with the local district the club has named the new facility the Glenaden Arena.
Last year Mr King told the Sentinel that the need for the facility was more pressing than ever given St Columb’s Park’s closure for a complete rebuild until 2015.
The Glenaden Arena has no formal opening or closing hours and is staffed entirely by volunteers. Mr King says it’s available whenever the local community wants to use it.
He explained: “As regards the Arena itself, we have hit the ground running, as we currently have 52 hours of regular bookings per week, with just over 800 unique visitors.
“We cannot actually meet the demand for the main requested time slots - Sunday to Friday from 5pm to late, as we are fully booked. Because of this incredible demand, we opened a ‘reserved’ list.
“Within one week, we had 38 groups on this list who cannot get a slot. That’s at least 380 people who want to be active at Glenaden Arena (per week) but can’t get a booking.”
It’s a remarkable success story of a local community turning the decline of textile manufacturing in Londonderry into a positive.
And the soccer school is in for the long haul, as Mr King explains.
“Clooney have a five year development plan for the factory and because the demand is so high, we have brought forward our plans to raise more funds to double our capacity, by building another artificial surface.
“As a result, we have now formally launched a fundraising campaign for ‘Pitch 2.’ Hopefully the main funders will assist us as we can actually prove ‘need’ this time around and we can provide evidence of facilitating local people from disadvantaged areas of the Waterside,” he said.
The new facility will help fill a gap in sports provision in the Waterside, which has been created by the temporary closure of the St Columb’s Park leisure centre.
A new £12m sports campus is due to open in early 2015 but in the meantime, Waterside community and sports groups can at least, avail of this its newest sports facility.
Clooney Soccer School was set up in March 2009 by three local coaches, that felt there was a need for a recognised soccer school in the local area.
This club was set up to provide a high level of soccer coaching and be part of the development of young players in Londonderry. It points out that obesity is currently growing at the fastest rate ever recorded in the UK and Ireland and can also lead to many different health conditions.
“We hope that we can do our part in the local community, by giving the young people a facility to play soccer. Using regular training sessions we aim to help prevent and reduce these figures within the local community,” it states.