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Masterplan for Ballymena Showgrounds unveiled with vision for ‘Centre of Excellence’

Updated: Jun 10, 2021

Proposals for future of Ballymena Showgrounds, including the vision for Northern Ireland’s first ‘Centre of Excellence for Women’s Football’ were discussed on Monday evening at Mid and East Antrim’s monthly Council meeting.

MEA Mayor, Councillor William McCaughey, described the plans as a ‘fantastic opportunity to create the Showgrounds as a sub-regional hub for football and to secure the national training centre for excellence for ladies football’.

“Sport in Mid and East Antrim, particularly football, plays a a key role in ensuring active, healthy lifestyles and community participation and engagement,” he said.

“I know that through through Council’s MEA United partnership approach with the three senior football clubs in our borough, we have been leading the lobby for the urgent release of increased stadia funding to ensure the delivery of enhanced sporting facilities in our borough.

“Following ongoing discussions in relation to Ballymena Showgrounds which included Council’s two representatives, Alderman Nicholl and Councillor Armstrong, a finalised masterplan has now been completed.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to create the Showgrounds as a sub-regional hub for football and to secure the national training centre for excellence for ladies football.”

Deputy Mayor, TUV Councillor Matthew Armstrong proposed the recommendations, and highlighted the current lack of facilities with youth teams in particular having to look outside the borough to book training facilities. He said:

“I will gladly propose the recommendations. We heard earlier about buildings that are surplus to requirement, but I can assure you that the Ballymena Showgrounds is not one of them, because at the minute there is simply not enough room. This is the dream to have provision and to turn this into a sporting facility, and the jewel in Mid and East Antrim’s crown.”

UUP Alderman Tommy Nicholl seconded the proposal.

“Like Councillor Armstrong, I am delighted that we have got this far. This issue was raised with those who were in the old Ballymena Council, raised by myself and others, that we had a vision for the Showgrounds, and now it hopefully, if the IFA play ball, coming to fruition.”

Paying tribute to the work of the committee so far, Alderman Nicholl said:

“The one thing I will say, this committee has been tremendous in my eyes with the way that they have worked together, you may say - played together. The important thing was, we gelled as a team, with the result that this is before you, here tonight.”

The vision for the Showgrounds has been

a long time coming for Alderman Nicholl who commented:

“Some of the things I have been shouting about for years - the closing in of both ends to make a better atmosphere whenever there’s a football match, the combined seating capacity at the Showgrounds, if this is followed through, will be approximately 6,500 people, two stands proposed at either end, a lot of other facilities within the main stands that we have never had before, and which will be of benefit to not only Ballymena United, but also to the community.”



• An additional stand at each end of the main arena (x1 covered stand with capacity for 1,512 at the Fisherwick end, and x1 uncovered stand of 1,400 with standing rail/seated capacity at the Warden Street end). This results in an overall 6,585 capacity stadium.

• New energy efficient floodlights to meet UEFA Category 3 status.

• A new hybrid grass/3G pitch which aligns with the National Stadium.

• A re-carpeting of the existing 2G hockey pitch to 3G carpet with a 250 seater stand which meets intermediate league status requirements.

• A new 250-seater covered stand to the existing 3G pitch to meet intermediate status.

• A high quality grass pitch to facilitate Ballymena United training functions with the ability to view the pitch from the covered stand at the 3G pitch.

• A central boulevard from the new car park to access the main stand.

• The central boulevard contains a hard surface fan zone which can facilitate food retailers and merchandise, and can also double up as a hard standing event space.

• The removal of the poultry hall, the retention of 4 grass pitches.

• A covered 3G pitch inside a dome to facilitate all-weather indoor training. The new proposed indoor 3G facility can be viewed from the viewing gallery within the main stand.

• The main stand incorporates fitness suites, function rooms, offices to enhance the provision for Ballymena United and any potential IFA centre of excellence.

The vision is dependant upon funding from the Northern Ireland Executive.

A three month pre-planning community consultation process on the masterplan for the Ballymena Showgrounds will now commence, before finally being submitted for planning permission.


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