At a meeting of the council’s development committee, councillors learned from Dungannon Swifts just how the club plans to use the £50,000 funding it is to receive via the local authority’s capital discretionary grant.
The meeting heard how the club wishes to construct a 3G pitch at its home – Stangmore Park – for both the benefit of the club and the wider community.
It was explained the Swifts, founded in 1949, has developed as a leading football club within the Irish League but needs to continue to produce its own players to compete at this level.
While Stangmore Park is renowned as having an excellent grass pitch it is costly to maintain and can only be used for around four hours a week.
In contrast, a 3G pitch will allow the club to have 40 hours of use a week, not just for its own activities but to offer it out to other sports clubs and casual user groups who just want to get together and have a kick about.
The project will cost £375,980 but the club has already secured £300,000 from FIFA’s funding relief plan; it has also raised £25,980 itself and is now receiving from council £50,000 from its capital discretionary grant.
Speaking about the project, Swifts’ chairman Keith Boyd said it has the potential to become the “flagship facility for sports in the western region and beyond”.
“Dungannon Swifts is at the heart of the community and the club are committed to improving our home ground at Stangmore Park to include state-of-the-art training and match facilities that will not only benefit our club but the wider sporting community across the district,” he said.
“This will allow our club to further expand its activities which, in turn, will allow for even more young people to participate in sport. The club and its facilities are vital to Dungannon, the wider district and its relationship with football and sport in general.”
Sinn Fein Councillor Dominic Molloy said it was great “to have a top team of local talent playing in the area” and wished the club all the best with the project.
“The Swifts have a broad spectrum of fans and players that is representative of the residents of the wider Dungannon area,” said Cllr Molloy.
“It is always good work within the Swifts and the work they do with the feeder club like Dungannon United Youth is top notch as well.
“The facilities are excellent and it is great to have a top team of local talent playing in the area. It is always good to see clubs own their facilities and come asking for a wee bit of help.
“It is good to see the investment and reinvestment being made by the club and I wish you all the very best with the project.”
SDLP group leader, Cllr Malachy Quinn also praised the Swifts’ work with youth teams and said the project would further enhance opportunities for the district’s future stars to follow in the steps of the likes of Conor Bradley.
“The Swifts are an excellent club who need this facility to get the youngsters playing on the big stage,” he said. “It will open a lot of avenues for them and it is great to see the club expanding like this.”
DUP Cllr Frances Burton told the chamber she knew first hand how the Swifts worked with local schools to encourage young people to get active and said she was sure the local authority would do all it could to help the club achieve its goals.
“I am delighted to see the club progressing and really seeking to push ahead even further,” said Cllr Burton. “As a former Minterburn Primary School mummy, I know from experience it was the Swifts that came and worked with the young people in the area.
“For those kids, it was a big thing at that time and I know many of the footballers have moved on to bigger and better things, even though the school, sadly, is now closed. As a council we will do our best to support you as best we can.”