BANGOR’S Sportsplex requires a complete overhaul to bring it up to standards in a borough that has helped catapult many sporting stars to success.

That was the appeal from Alliance councillors Christine Creighton and Hannah Irwin who expressed concern about the ‘deteriorating conditions of the Old Belfast Road site rendering several pitches unusable’.

In a motion supported by members of the council’s Community and Wellbeing committee, they listed the likes of Holywood golfing superstar Rory McIlroy, Commonwealth gold-winning gymnast, Rhys McClenaghan and Ciara Mageean, Portaferry’s world champion runner who have represented the borough in the sporting arena.

They asked council officers to produce a report on the future of the sporting venue, opened in 1997, to address maintenance and structural issues and to ‘explore options for the long term provision of track and field athletics facilities in the borough’.

Councillor Creighton said it had ‘fallen into significant disrepair’, the hammer cage is no longer fit for purpose’ and said the gym had suffered from a ‘significant reduction in user levels and subsequent reduction in opening hours.

On the sporting prowess of local athletes and said they should benefit from ‘first class facilities in which to train’, adding that club sports, those using the complex for better mental health and wellbeing and weight management, also deserved higher standards.  

“It’s important that the council sets out a plan to return the Sportsplex back to the standards that the people of North Down and visitors to the borough deserve,” she said. 

Councillor Irwin agreed, listing the sporting heroes from the borough who ‘punch well above their weight’ but said the deterioration of the running track and closed football pitches were of considerable ‘concern’. 

Asking for a report on the centre to ‘get a full picture’, she said it was a ‘well-loved’ facility among footballers, track athletes and many others, and ‘attracts many from outside the borough, whether for training purposes or to support their teams’.

“In many cases it’s the first introduction to services in the borough and it’s important to make a good first impression,” she said. 

“We need to ensure we have a facility that’s fit for purpose, for our future stars to learn and develop and it’s vital we undertake the work to get a fuller picture of the state of Sportplex and ,” she said.

Independent councillor Wesley Irvine conceded the Sportsplex had suffered from ‘complex issues’ in recent years, including subsidence. He noted that ‘significant’ investment had gone into attempts to rectify those issues’ but that ‘this really hasn’t resolved the issues’. 

He said he ‘supports the thrust of the motion’ but wondered whether it was best to ‘keep it at its current site or if it was better moved elsewhere’ and said the ‘nature of the ground makes it difficult for future investment’.

SDLP councillor Joe Boyle supported the motion, but questioned whether the council had previously ‘rejected’ further spending on the Sportsplex, as recently as last year. 

“If we have rejected it already I think we should revisit it,” he said.