Jim Watt Centre is officially opened

The official opening of the Jim Watt Sports Centre took place in Garvagh on Saturday.

The 1.6 million centre was unveiled by the Mayor of Coleraine, Councillor Norman Hillis, and he was joined by members of the Watt family and local councillors.

The newly appointed, state-of-the-art facility is named after former Mayor, councillor and Garvagh businessman, the late Jim Watt.

Jim was a keen sports man who worked tirelessly for his community for over 30 years.

It was originally hoped that the centre would be opened by Mrs Sadie Watt, the beloved wife of Jim, however Mrs Watt sadly died at the start of last week before the centre was due to be opened. It was the wish of the Watt family that the ceremony would go ahead as planned.

The Jim Watt Sports Centre is part-funded by Coleraine Borough Council and Sport NI and boasts a multi-purpose sports hall, changing facilities, rooms for coaching and fitness classes and will soon host a fitness suite.

Garvagh has a number of sports groups that will benefit directly from this new service on their doorstep including football and gaelic clubs, tug of war team, indoor bowling and judo.

Before opening the centre, Mayor of Coleraine, Cllr Norman Hillis spoke fondly about his friend and former party colleague, Jim Watt.

"Jim was a proud family man, local businessman, politician, and most importantly, a Garvagh man," said the Mayor.

"He was highly respected by his local constituents and equally by his fellow elected members throughout his many years as a councillor and time as Mayor of the Borough of Coleraine.

"As an elected Member, he made a significant contribution in the Council chamber and helped to shape many important decisions for all parts of our community. He was a politician with a small 'p', for his main interest was in helping people, actively working for the rural community and being an ambassador for his hometown of Garvagh.

"This sports centre is an enduring tribute to a remarkable man and I hope that it will act as a catalyst for future regeneration in this town."

The Deputy Mayor of Coleraine, Councillor Sam Cole also spoke at the opening, saying: "Sport has long been at the heart of the Garvagh community and this magnificent new centre will serve as a much-needed community hub to encourage the development of sport in the area.

"If community sports facilities are going to be successful in attracting more people and increasing participation levels, they need to be able to offer the very best sporting opportunities for everybody. People from Garvagh and surrounding areas now have access to a state-of-the-art centre, meaning there has never been a better time to find a sport to interest them or to simply get fit and active."

DUP MLA Adrian McQuillan has described the new Garvagh Sports Centre as "the best in the north west".

Speaking after the official opening on Saturday, the MLA said that the facility would be a "welcome boost" for the Garvagh area.

Among the guests at the ceremony were the parents of Jenna McCorkell, Coleraine's Olympic ice skater.

Jim Watt was a dedicated advocate of promoting and enhancing young sporting talent and was instrumental in the early development of Jenna's talent. Mr and Mrs McCorkell attended the ceremony to represent their daughter and show their support for the new centre.

Following the official opening, local sports clubs gave demonstrations in kickboxing, Shotokan karate, badminton and curling in the Sports Hall. This was enjoyed by the 100 guests in attendance.

The Jim Watt Sports Centre is now open for business. Opening hours are Monday to Friday 3.30pm to 10pm and Saturday 10am – 5.30pm. To make a booking telephone (028) 2955 8686.