GAA Football

Wraps to come off plans for Down GAA centre of excellence in Ballykinlar

Down County Board chairman Sean Rooney (right) and Down GAA treasurer Diarmuid Cahill (left) with Colm McGurk of McGurk Chartered Architects back in June
Neil Loughran

THE wraps will come off Down GAA’s plans for an ambitious new £5million-plus centre of excellence at the former army barracks in Ballykinlar today.

In the first of two public information events, details of the project including architect’s impressions and drawings will be unveiled at the clubrooms of Ballykinlar GAA club (3pm-8pm). They will also be on display at Newry’s Pairc Esler tomorrow in the same time slot.

County Derry-based McGurk Chartered Architects were appointed to lead the design phase for acquiring planning permission back in June, and the proposed centre of excellence will include four full size pitches, spectator seating, a multi-use games area, car parking, changing rooms, fitness studio and ancillary offices.

Subject to planning approval, Down County Board chairman Sean Rooney – whose five-year term comes to an end next month – hopes work on the project can commence in 2020.

“This is our vision for the area of land we have,” he said.

“My term’s coming to an end, and we would like to have the planning application submitted by then. This is a home for Down GAA, it’s so important for the future so that everybody knows where they’re going to be.”

“It’s all subject to planning, but we would hope to be on site as soon as possible. We haven’t really had any costings done but I’m sure it’ll be north of £5m, which is a big undertaking.

“We’d be hoping to tap into all available funding opportunities.”

It was August 2017 when it was first revealed that Down GAA - alongside it’s funding wing, Club Down - had entered negotiations with the Ministry of Defence (MOD) regarding the acquisition of land at the Abercorn Barracks.

The resident battalion moved out of Ballykinler in 2014, with the 199 empty homes on-site to be knocked down.

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