A Coleraine football club has set itself some ambitious goals with the local community at its heart.
Heights FC are seeking resources from the council to update and upgrade the West Bann MUGA (Multi Use Games Area) which has been described as ‘the worst seen in the borough’, with an aim of turning it into something all the community can enjoy and be proud of.
The club, who currently play in the Coleraine & District League, also have their sights set on playing Intermediate League football which would require changes made to the council-owned pitch.
Club Development Office Al Steele said: “What we want is to branch out into the community and have a facility for everyone, especially the children.
“We want to start up our own youth academy and have facilities so all the community can be more involved with the football club.
“We are trying to modernise the area for the local community because there is absolutely nothing for the kids or youth in this area at all.
“From the club’s point of view, we are aiming to move up the football ladder into intermediate football. The grass pitch itself is first class but there are certain aspects required to play in Intermediate League football in that you need to have a perimeter fence around the venue and dugouts.”
The MUGA, situated at the Rope Walk in Coleraine, is currently in a sad state of disrepair leading to Heights FC calling upon Causeway Coast & Glens Council to pour some resources into the facility.
Mr Steele continued: “Because the pitch and the MUGA is a council-owned facility we are asking for it to be upgraded and that would enable us to run different community events and summer schemes.”
The original surface of the MUGA was vandalised back in 2013 when at that time it was described as one of the best and most used in the former Coleraine Borough Council area.
“The MUGA was one of the first put up in the borough but it’s like everything else, when you buy a car years ago it’s not the same as a car now,” said the Heights FC Development Officer.
“It is now easily the worst MUGA in the borough. There was a polymeric playing surface that was vandalised and it was subsequently replaced with tarmac.
“There is no lock to secure the area and some of the fencing is actually held up and held together with circlips – essentially metal cable ties. The basketball nets are completely rusted and it now needs to be completely updated.
“When you look at the state of it compared to other areas, it is sending out a message to the kids and the local community that no one cares. However, as a club, we want to be able to change that perception and an upgrade would facilitate us to do that.
“Councillor Stephanie Quigley has been fantastic, she has been a champion for us, she has been trying to push forward for the club.
“There’s a facility there that could be used but it isn’t fit for purpose. If the MUGA was upgraded it could be used for everything from boot camps to fitness classes for kids and adults, the boxing club could use it for outdoor training and it would also allow us as a club to train on that facility.
“We want community cohesion and we want to push forward to that. We want to encourage children and teenagers to be active and fit.
“In the Heights area there are absolutely no play facilities for children – there’s nothing. There is no facility for anyone to go and enjoy outdoor exercise and play. Kylemore Road Park which is a five-minute walk away isn’t fit for purpose either.”
Despite the MUGA being in dire need of an upgrade, Al Steele described the council-owned football pitch as ‘excellent, it’s the best pitch in the town’, however, he feels that changes to benefit the football could be a win-win situation for everyone.
“By upgrading the grass pitch and bringing it up to Intermediate League standard that will help Heights FC grow and progress as a club which in turn will facilitate us to be able to work more with and help the local community,” he said.
“We want to get the community involved with the club and with some investment in the area we can branch out, we can start up our own youth section and be able to provide something for children to go to that won’t be a financial hardship on the parents.”
“It’s about getting them out, getting them active and away from Playstations. It also helps with mental health. We all know how tough it has been over the past year and a half with the pandemic and just like adults, children have been struggling with being cooped up.
“If we can do something, do anything to get them active then we will, however, we need the council’s help to be able to make a difference.”
The Local Democracy Reporting Service contacted Causeway Coast & Glens to ask if the West Bann MUGA is scheduled for an upgrade and if so what the cost would be. However, at the time of going to press no response had been received.