THE Meadowbank Sports Arena in Magherafelt celebrate their fourth anniversary this January.
The arena continues to go from strength to strength as it provides a world class venue for all sports in the South Derry area.
The fantastic facilities available have certainly been a huge hit with clubs and schools throughout the area and Laurence Hastings (Head of Leisure Services at Magherafelt Council) has been delighted with reaction from the local community.
“There is no doubt that participation in sport, particularly in children, has increased in the area. Conditions are ideal for all sports and no longer will the deteriorating weather conditions put off sports enthusiasts .”
“Local schoolchildren regularly make use of the facilities during the day. We have a great relationship with local schools, where we give them a reduced rate and assist them with their sporting programmes.”
The impressive building is 137m long and 70 metres wide. There is also seating for 400 spectators on a viewing platform. The venue has already gained a superb reputation for successfully hosting large scale events for several different sports.
Within months of unofficially opening, the arena played host to a European Championship boxing evening. Dungiven southpaw Paul McCloskey successfully won the European vacant EBU (European) light welterweight title against Spaniard Daniel Rasilla.
“It was a massive occasion for us. It was our first major event and thankfully the evening went well and we received a lot of compliments from Matchroom Sport and the Sky Sports, who broadcasted the fight live.”
In the past Magherafelt or the surrounding areas would simply have not been able to host events such as this. However, since their opening in 2008, the arena has welcomed events from a number of sports.
“We have hosted the Irish Junior Indoor Athletic Championships and held a tester event for the Fire, Police and Prison Service games which are due to be held in Belfast in 2013.”
“In addition we hosted the first ever indoor Irish Premier League hockey fixture between Cookstown Hockey Club and Instonians.”
Demand for use of the fabulous facilities was at an all time high last winter as the big freeze hit Northern Ireland. One particular occasion saw a hockey master-class training session from two Australian gold medal hockey winners, have to relocate their session from Jordanstown to Magherafelt due to the weather.
“In the past we would simply not have been able to host these sort of events. The Greenvale Leisure Centre was too small for many of the events we were keen on hosting. The Sports Arena now has enabled us to take advantage of hosting large scale events and we are hopeful that we can continue to bring top class events to the region
Word was quick to circulate about the state of the art facilities on offer at the Meadowbank and a delegation from the Bangladesh government visited the region and were suitably impressed.
“The delegation were very impressed with the facilities and they are building something similar in Dhaka at the moment,” said Laurence.
However, the hard working staff at the Sports Arena are always looking at ways to improve the facilities.
“We would always like to be in the position to make improvements. If we have money available then we will look at investing in some facilities outside. We would love to build a 3G or 4G artificial pitch to compliment the fantastic facilities we have inside.”
“We have been incredibly happy with how the first couple of years have gone and we are looking forward to a bright future for all sports in the area.”