THE ratepayers of Coleraine have vented their frustration at the lack of leisure facilities in the town.
Things came to a head last week after the Main Hall in the Leisure Centre, which is used for sports such as 5-a-side football and badminton, was closed again as water was leaking in to the hall from the roof after the heavy rainfall.
The public took to social media site Facebook where a group ‘Real Sports For All in Coleraine’ was formed. The general consensus amongst the group’s 118 members is enough is enough and they are calling on the ratepayers to get something back from the council.
One post said the council only seemed interested in visitors to the borough, while another called the facilities a ‘disgrace’.
“The sporting facilities in Coleraine really do leave a lot to be desired, they are poor to be honest,” Neil Leese, one of the group’s members, told Times Sport.
“Yet again we find the only indoor football venue in the town closed because of rain. It really is remarkable.
“We are paying good money in rates year on year but what do we the ratepayers get back? There are so many sports men, women and children in this borough but we are second class citizens when is comes to facilities.
“We are sandwiched between Ballymoney and Limavady, who are smaller towns, but we are light years behind them.”
The Coleraine Times contacted Coleraine Council about the ongoing problem with the roof and we were told the Leisure Centre has been ‘experiencing problems with water leaks to the main hall roof over the past three years’.
Neil though disputes this.
“The problem has been going on a lot longer than that,” he said.
“I have been playing 5-a-sides there for years and the hall has suffered leaks for as long as I can remember.
“When you count up the lost revenue over that time you would think it would be more cost effective to actually fix it!
“I know if I had a leak at home I would be fixing it.
“Really though the Leisure Centre is just one issue. The borough is completely lacking in sporting facilities.
“We are being short changed but hopefully the council will sit up and take notice of us once and for all.
“We have slides at the Leisure Centre pool which haven’t been open in years.
“We have no adequate training facilities with lights, in the town for any sport.
“In fact I’ve heard that one well known sporting group have been training out on the street. This is ridiculous all we are asking for is that we have facilities available, and I know for a fact they would be well used, which are up to standard.
“Unfortunately everything seems to be geared towards the tourists and we seem to be forgotten about.”
Neil has played football and also coached youth teams down the years and he fears the lack of facilities in the borough could impact of future generations.
“I am really concerned that the lack of facilities will impact on the generation of sportsmen and women,” he said.
“I know that there are already young footballers from here playing for teams outside the borough because of the lack of facilities in the area.
“That is a very sad indictment of Coleraine which has always been a hot bed of sporting talent.
“You pay good money for football pitches and hooks are missing off the goals or sometimes there’s dog foul on the grass for example.
“Our neighbours up the road in Ballymoney have fenced off pitches and modern goals which don’t need the teams to put the nets on. Surely this is the way forward?
“Clubs are also in a very precarious position too because they are having to pay out large sums of money every year at a private facility.
“Clubs just don’t have the money to sustain that and I know for a fact that a number of sporting clubs are already starting to feel the pinch. People just don’t have the money anymore.
“Hopefully the powers that be will sit up and listen to us now. All we are asking for is a fair deal, which, at the minute, we don’t seem to be getting.”
In a statement to Times Sport the council apologised for the inconvenience, but said the leak was being repaired as soon as possible.
It said: “Coleraine Leisure Centre has been experiencing problems with water leaks to the main hall roof over the past three years. This is due to the dome shaped sky lights where water is subsequently getting through into the main hall.
“This roof has a ten year life span which was identified in a report completed in 2011. A business case is being developed to identify the long term solution, which to date has resulted in a number of closures during the past three years.
“Council apologises to members of the public for any inconvenience, as each leak is being repaired as it arises.”