WORK on the much sought after refurbishment of Brandywell Stadium is expected to get underway in October this year, with the upgrade providing seated accommodation for 6,000 people.
And provided the various funders and stakeholders give their stamp of approval at a meeting which is expected to take place in the near future, work could actually start as early as September, the “Journal” has learned.
With the Brandywell community also set to benefit from the refurbishment of the immediate area, the news will be viewed as a significant shot in the arm for Derry’s sporting and leisure facilities which have been lagging behind other Council areas over recent years.
The massive investment, understood to be close to £9 million - comprising a partnership of Derry City Council, DCAL, Sport N.I. and OFMDFM - has now been agreed in principle.
With Derry City Council leading the way with an investment close to £5m., the refurbishment of Brandywell Stadium will see the demolition of the current Glentoran Stand which will be replaced by a structure similar to the new stand constructed at Derry’s GAA headquarters at Owenbeg, close to Dungiven.
New changing and treatment facilities will be incorporated underneath the stand with the current grass pitch also removed and replaced by a modern 4G surface.
As such, the infamous “Brandywell Slope” will now disappear.
And there are big changes ahead for the local Brandywell Greyhound Racing Company, who have operated inside the stadium for over one hundred years.
That organisation will now move to a new track to be constructed next door in the Brandywell Showgrounds with bookmaking, spectator and kennel facilities also incorporated in their scheme.
Also included in this particular area, which is understood to be Phase Two of the project, is the demolition of the Brandywell Sports Centre which will be totally redeveloped.
And the current recycling facility which occupies a corner of the site, will be relocated to Pennyburn Industrial Estate with Derry City Council to provide alternative local recycling facilities.
Phase Three of the refurbishment centres on the nearby Daisyfield where a new full size grass pitch is to be laid, plus a three-quarters size 3G training pitch with a new six block changing pavilionto be constructed.
So there’s absolutely no doubt that the proposed scheme will transform the Brandywell area into a top centre for sport and leisure and, of course, provide a much needed boost for a dwindling community which has been deprived for so long.
It’s understood the initial breakdown in the funding was as follows - DCAL £2m.; OFMDFM (Social Investment Fund), £1.75m. ; Sport N.I., £150,000; Derry City Council £2.75m. - which amounts to £6.65m.
However, with the expenditure at the three phases calculated to cost £8.80m., it’s understood the shortfall of £2.15m. has been picked up by the local Council under it’s Capital Leisure Fund.
All in all, quite an ambitious plan but one which will be viewed as a good news story for t hose involved in sport in the Derry and, indeed, north-west areas.