Minister ‘supportive’ of Carrick Rangers FC’s redevelopment proposals

Carrick Rangers Football Club has welcomed a “supportive” visit by Communities Minister Gordon Lyons as it continues to push for expansion plan funding.
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During the minister’s tour of the Loughview Leisure Arena, club chairman Peter Clarke outlined redevelopment proposals and highlighted how such improvements would be of significant community benefit.

Mr Clarke said: “I was delighted to meet with Minister Lyons and discuss the club’s plans at length while stressing the urgent need for capital investment. The minister was supportive and impressed with our level of community engagement.

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“Though the club continues to expand, with the Falcons and their plans to launch a girls’ academy our most recent addition, we do not presently have the ability to facilitate the needs of such growth. Our current infrastructure does not adequately support our existing teams, never mind adding to that.”

Communities Minister Gordon Lyons learning more about Carrick Rangers FC's development plans from chairman Peter Clarke. Photo: Department for CommunitiesCommunities Minister Gordon Lyons learning more about Carrick Rangers FC's development plans from chairman Peter Clarke. Photo: Department for Communities
Communities Minister Gordon Lyons learning more about Carrick Rangers FC's development plans from chairman Peter Clarke. Photo: Department for Communities

In a statement on the Irish Premiership outfit’s website, the chairman added: “Both the Executive and Mid and East Antrim Borough Council must realise the huge benefits of such infrastructure investment and what it could mean for the wider community to have outstanding sporting facilities to avail of.

“The minister acknowledged the fantastic work carried out by all the volunteers at Carrick Rangers and he is also fully aware of the vast benefits of having people actively engaged in sport, in terms of both their physical and mental well-being, and he clearly articulated his desire to see projects funded.”

Joined Forces

In 2020, Carrick, Larne FC, and Ballymena United joined forces with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council to press for £25m funding for local grounds. All three clubs submitted their responses to a Department for Communities (DfC) evidence-gathering survey on sub-regional stadia facilities in Northern Ireland, which aimed to identify strategic priorities for the development of soccer.

Peter Clarke, chairman of Carrick Rangers, with Communities Minister Gordon Lyons and Cheryl Brownlee MLA at the Lougview Leisure Arena.Peter Clarke, chairman of Carrick Rangers, with Communities Minister Gordon Lyons and Cheryl Brownlee MLA at the Lougview Leisure Arena.
Peter Clarke, chairman of Carrick Rangers, with Communities Minister Gordon Lyons and Cheryl Brownlee MLA at the Lougview Leisure Arena.
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Giving the initiative his backing at the time in his capacity as an MLA, Mr Lyons said it “was hugely frustrating that almost a decade on from initial conversations around regional stadia funding, that this crucial work remains undelivered”.

Following his appointment as Communities Minister in the recently restored Executive, Mr Lyons has identified delivery of the sub regional stadia programme as an early priority.

Speaking after his visit to Taylor’s Avenue, the minister said: “It was good to learn more about the plans the club have to enhance their facilities and build a strong footballing legacy.”

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Mr Lyons was invited to Carrickfergus by fellow DUP MLA Cheryl Brownlee, who highlighted the wider advantages of facility development.

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Ms Brownlee said: “Peter and the board have an incredible vision for the regeneration of Taylor’s Avenue which will benefit the whole community. I took the opportunity to speak to department officials about how other local clubs can benefit from the developments including Evolution Boxing Club and Barn United (FC).

"I will continue to work with the minister and all of our local clubs to advance the sporting facilities on offer in East Antrim.”