Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson, Ulster Rugby President John Kinnear and the Sport Changes Life Foundation officially opened a state-of-the-art community gym in Ballybeen estate last Friday.
Ulster Rugby has provided equipment, which costs in the region of £25,000, to Ballybeen Men’s Motivational Group after receiving funding from DCAL under the ‘Promoting Equality, Tackling Poverty and Social Exclusion through Sport’ programme.
The aim of the facility is to deliver a structured health & fitness programme to local residents. The centre will encourage local people to engage in physical activity in a relaxed atmosphere, with a view to tackling health inequalities and removing the barriers to participation.
The equipment includes weight training items, cardiovascular machines, inclusive fitness initiative equipment for disabled users and an outdoor training pack.
A key aspect of the project is the qualification of five young unemployed residents who will gain a professionally recognised fitness qualification (Level 2 Fitness Instructor) provided by Sport Changes Life and Ulster Rugby.
The qualification will enable the facility to be sustainable in the community. They will also have an option to enroll on the Ulster Rugby volunteer fitness development coach programme, which will allow them to develop their skills further while gaining invaluable practical experience.
Ballybeen Men’s Motivational Group is a community hub in Northern Ireland’s second biggest estate and with two rugby clubs within a five mile radius (Ards RFC and Civil Service RFC), there is great potential to grow rugby in a non-traditional area.
Speaking at the official launch, First Minister Peter Robinson said: “Ulster Rugby has done a fantastic job in providing the equipment for the gym and Andy (Tyrie) and his team will get every reward in terms of the benefits that they will see over the next months and years from having such a great facility in the area.
“The people here are doing a great thing in terms of improving the wellbeing of the local community and they have fantastic ambitions for the future – I wish them every success.”
Andy Tyrie, from Ballybeen Men’s Motivational Group, is looking forward to welcoming local people in to use the facilities.
“There has been a great buzz about the area since people heard about this project. We have worked tirelessly to make this happen and it’s extremely rewarding to get to this point,” he commented.
“The facility is excellent and will become a real focal point of this community. We can’t wait to welcome everyone in and help support their journey to a healthier lifestyle.
“BMMG has a thriving partnership with the Sport Changes Life Foundation who have helped and supported the young people in Ballybeen through their DEL funded eHOOPs programme.
“SCL have been the catalyst of our work with the young people and we would like to thank them for facilitating the gym in our area.”
Ulster Rugby President John Kinnear added: “We’re delighted to be able to contribute to this fantastic project. One of our key organisational goals is to improve health and wellbeing among all age groups and I believe the installation of gym equipment at sites such as this is a great way to achieve that.
“Our community gym initiative will see the refurbishment of 15 gyms in total across the province and is a key aspect of our plans to increase opportunities for people to engage with fitness and rugby sessions.
“There is great potential to grow the game in this area and building relationships like this one will only strengthen our position to do that.
“I’d like to thank the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure for their continued support in helping us expand rugby in both traditional and non-traditional areas.”