Row brewing over name for new leisure centre in Craigavon

A perspective of the new South Lake Leisure Centre in Craigavon.A perspective of the new South Lake Leisure Centre in Craigavon.
A perspective of the new South Lake Leisure Centre in Craigavon.
A DUP proposal to name a Craigavon leisure centre in honour of Northern Ireland’s 100th anniversary, looks set to meet fierce opposition when it is brought before Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.

At Council’s monthly meeting on Monday, June 22, DUP group leader, Councillor Mark Baxter,  will bring forward a proposal to call the new facility the Centenary Leisure Centre.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Cllr Baxter said: “Our country celebrates a great milestone on May 21 next year, our 100th anniversary as a nation within the United Kingdom.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Given the current economic situation, we, as a party, discussed a fitting and inexpensive way to mark this significant anniversary, so we will propose that the Council officially name the new leisure centre in Craigavon as the ‘Centenary Leisure Centre’.”

SDLP councillor Joe Nelson, a member of the leisure centre’s project board, has hit out at the proposal and made it clear he will be “very vocal” in his opposition.

“We knew there would be an effort by the DUP to try and stamp its authority on this centre,” said Cllr Nelson. “The default name from day one has been the South Lake Leisure Centre.

“This is something that I feel defines accurately the provision of this state of the art facility and the environment in which it is located.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“This proposal by the DUP is nothing more than a political stunt. They want to call it after something that I would describe as the worst to thing to happen to Ireland since partition.

“I am someone who respects others views but I will be very vocal about my opposition to this proposal when it is raised in Council.

“The proposal will be taken by the Catholic/Nationalist Community as another insult by the DUP group on Council as it continues to try to drag us back to the ‘Ballygobackwards’ days of Craigavon Council.

“It is a slap in the face to nationalist people and I would urge the Ulster Unionist Party to stand up and be counted on Monday night.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Alliance Party’s group leader, Councillor Eoin Tennyson, said his party favoured retaining the name, South Lake Leisure Centre.

“Alliance believes council facilities should be named in a manner which maintains neutrality and reflects locality, so as to be welcoming for everyone across our community,” said Cllr Tennyson.

“The existing name of South Lake Leisure Centre (SLLC) achieves this, recognising local connections without memorialising or political posturing.

“Any change at this late stage would mean further delay to the opening of the centre and additional cost to ratepayers as an Equality Impact Assessment would have to be satisfied, signage replaced at a potential cost of more than £40k and planning implications would have to be considered.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“We may even find ourselves in a position where residents are left without leisure provision altogether for an extended period.”

He continued: “The centenary of Northern Ireland is a significant event in our shared history, and of course it is right that we mark it in a thoughtful, inclusive and informative way.

“Now, more than ever, people want to see their councillors showing leadership, working together and focused on the ongoing pandemic.

“Engaging in political point-scoring or a faux fight over the name of a leisure centre is merely a distraction from that.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Due to the make-up of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, should the Ulster Unionist Party decided to back this proposal, it will have the majority required to carry.

However, speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Ulster Unionist Councillor Julie Flaherty, explained the party has yet to discuss the matter.

“Unfortunately the UUP group have not had the opportunity to meet and discuss this matter,” said the Portadown councillor.

“We will do so in anticipation of the Council meeting on Monday night.“

Sinn Fein was asked for comment.

A message from the Editor:

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper whenever you are able to do so.

Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper when you can safely.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

You can also enjoy unlimited access to the best news from across Northern Ireland and the UK by subscribing to

With a digital subscription, you can read more than five articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit now to sign up.

Thank you.