The outstanding design of an innovative £1 million sports and recreation development has earned the project a place on the RICS Northern Ireland Awards shortlist.
The new Regional Outdoor Activity Centre is located on the shores of Loughmacrory in Omagh.
The project is considered as one of the biggest and most visionary initiatives ever undertaken by a rural community group. The project was jointly developed by Loughmacrory Community Development Association, St Teresa’s GAC and Loughmacrory GAA Handball club, with McAleer & Teague as main contractors.
The development includes a new 500-seater stand at the football field, additional changing rooms, a running track around the current football field and three one wall handball courts, which can also be utilised for multiple community uses.
The scheme also incorporates an extension of the Loughview Centre to include a glass fronted modern gym overlooking the Lough, children’s play area, meeting rooms and changing facilities to cater for swimmers and triathletes using the lough.
In addition to this, the project involved the purchasing of additional fishing boats and the upgrade of infrastructure at the lough to consolidate Loughmacrory’s position as a destination for angling, building on its success of hosting the world junior angling championship in 2013.
Chair of the Loughmacrory Community Development Association, Declan McAleer, said: “This is a major milestone in the life of our community. This huge investment benefits people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities and consolidates Loughmacrory as a national and international destination for football, angling, handball, triathlons, walking, cycling and many more activities.
“The project will have major health and social benefits for people of all ages and for future generations.
“This is clear evidence that when a community is united with groups, from all disciplines and backgrounds, working together in a common cause that great results can be achieved. This project has involved the co-operation of a wide range of groups and agencies.”
The Chair of Loughmacrory GAC, Barry Mc Elduff said: “Past and present members have worked tirelessly over the years to provide a vibrant club serving all the community and this project will serve to reinforce this link. It offers our members and partners the opportunity to benefit from state of the art facilities which will see the club grow and develop in the future. It’s a great news story in difficult times and we are delighted to be part of it.
Loughmacrory GAA Handball Club Chairman, Chris Curran, is in no doubt of the impact the new centre will have on sport in the community. “The outdoor One Wall Handball facility is a major breakthrough for Loughmacrory GAA Handball club and the sport in general.
“It not only provides a One Wall Handball Centre of Excellence in the Loughmacrory area, thus attracting major provincial, national and possibly international events in the future, but is also a multi-purpose facility for the entire community, thus providing a brilliant synergy of all the various groups throughout the community.”
The project received £0.8 million from ARC North West under the Rural Development Programme and also received funding from the lottery, Omagh District Council, NIHE and the Ulster Wildlife Trust, as well as from local fund raisers and contributions ‘in kind’ from volunteers.