Can Belfast City Council’s Development Plans Help Inspire a Sporting Generation?

When it comes to sport, Belfast has never failed to create iconic sportsmen and women. However, the city does not have the highest profile when it comes to hosting sporting events, despite there always being plenty going on in the city, from cycling to golf and a lot of other activities in between. Of course, two key reasons for cities like Belfast to get involved in showcasing major events is to boost both their economy and their reputation.

However, there is also the hope that a legacy can be developed which encourages an interest in sport, health and fitness across all age groups. Take a moment, for example, to think back to London hosting the Olympics in 2012, an event watched by 90 percent of the UK population, when the tagline of the whole event was simply to “inspire a generation”.

Becoming the best

While many of us can be inspired by athletes and sportspeople, actually becoming one is, of course, a very different matter completely. Whether you are aiming to be the new Rory McIlroy or a top boxer like Carl Frampton, there are a host of issues to consider in your efforts to reach the top.

As boxing dietician Mark Ellison recently outlined in an interview with Betway, meal planning and keeping a good diet is essential and can give you a huge lift. The GB Boxing performance nutritionist is currently working with boxing star Anthony Joshua ahead of his upcoming fight with Vladimir Klitschko on April 29th and revealed that on intense training days it is not uncommon for the athlete’s calorie count to go reach beyond 4,500. Not only is this twice the regular daily average for a man, but it also equates to a mindblowing 22 slices of pepperoni pizza, 46 chicken wings or 19 iced Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

However, it is, of course, vital that sportspeople eat the right foods when attempting to get the calories they require, with dietician Julie Neville – wife of former Manchester United star Phil – also stressing that anyone undertaking exercise or training will only get results if their diet is right. Even golfers have to bear these issues in mind, with Rory McIlroy going on record to talk about the importance of nutrition and eating well and staying hydrated is vital to ensure his concentration never wavers while on the course.

But perhaps the fundamental issue – regardless of your discipline or sport – is having access to quality first-class training facilities. Thankfully, the 333,000 people living in Belfast have just received some very good news on that front, as the city’s council recently confirmed that the proposed creation of two new major leisure centres in the city has taken a big step forward.

New facilities

Planning permission has now been granted for the redevelopment of both the Robinson Centre in Castlereagh and also the Brook Activity Centre in Twinbrook, with the two major projects being part of Belfast City Council’s own £105 million programme to boost leisure facilities across the area.

Looking specifically at each of them, the work on the Robinson Centre will see the current facilities replaced with a new centre which will be focused specifically on aquatic sports. This will see the installation of a new 25-metre by eight-lane gala pool with spectator seats, a 20-metre training pool and a leisure water facility. In addition, a four-court sports hall will be introduced with a 140-station fitness suite, outdoor five-a-side pitches and also a new community centre. The Robinson Centre was named after former DUP first minister Peter Robinson and there has not yet been confirmation as to whether the site will continue to carry his name.

In terms of the Brook Activity Centre, the major rebuilding project at the site will focus predominantly on outdoor facilities including a GAA pitch, two football pitches, both outdoor and indoor five-a-side pitches, new changing rooms, a hurling wall and a playground. A five-court sports hall, 60-station fitness suite and a 25-metre swimming pool will also be added.

Operational by 2019

The planning permission was announced alongside the presentation of new revised plans to change Windsor House into the Grand Central Hotel, with Councillor Peter Johnson, chairman of the Belfast City Council’s planning committee, revealing hopes that the leisure facilities will be operational by early 2019. He said: “This programme is a substantial investment in the future health and well-being of both the city and its citizens, with each of the new centres deliberately designed to offer different facilities.”

News of the new centres is undoubtedly very exciting for Belfast, as it will give the local community access to high-quality leisure facilities which it will be hoped will indeed become the new breeding ground for the next generation of great Northern Irish sportsmen and women. It almost goes without saying that it is a strong time for the country’s sporting credentials, with our golfers dominating the Masters and the national football team now being ranked 26th in the world after a hugely successful period under Michael O’Neill.

With this in mind, it makes perfect sense for the city to look to the future to ensure that new generations inspired by the heroics of their sporting idols have the opportunity to follow in their footsteps.