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Ulster To Benefit From Shared Aquinas Training Facilities

Ulster To Benefit From Shared Aquinas Training Facilities

The DCAL Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín, has officially opened a new sports facility at Aquinas Diocesan Grammar School that will provide state-of-the-art training facilities for Ulster Rugby, as well as health and fitness benefits to pupils and the wider community.

The joint project between Aquinas and Ulster Rugby was funded by the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure (DCAL) and Belfast City Council and features a synthetic 3G pitch that can be used for rugby, football or GAA training. It also has a second, smaller 3G training area, a basketball/netball court and an outdoor gym.

The facility at Aquinas can be accessed directly from Ulster Rugby’s training base in the Hughes Insurance Family Stand and will form a participatory element of the new Kingspan Stadium education tours that will begin next year when the new Nevin Spence Centre opens.

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The pitches were completed in late September and are used daily by pupils at Aquinas Diocesan Grammar School, by the Ulster Rugby squad and by the local community.

Speaking at the opening, Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said: “The transformation has been incredible and we now have fantastic facilities available not only to pupils of Aquinas Grammar School and Ulster Rugby but also the wider community.

“I am pleased that my Department’s contribution of £560,000, together with Belfast City Council’s contribution, has produced such a worthwhile outcome. I am delighted to see the school estate being maximised for the benefits of the wider community.”

Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon commented: “A key goal of Belfast City Council’s Investment Programme is to prioritise projects that make a real difference to communities. This is a great example.

“Our £15 million investment in pitches throughout all parts of the city will ensure greater use of facilities as well as boosting excellence across a range of sports.”

Principal of Aquinas Diocesan Grammar School, Barry Kelly, said: “We are delighted that the Diocesan trustees have supported our continuing partnership with Ulster Rugby. The new facilities enhance the learning experiences and opportunities for Aquinas students, and support Ulster Rugby in providing first class training facilities with access for the local clubs, schools and communities”.

The Aquinas Principal acknowledged the funding from DCAL and BCC and the attendance of Minister Carál Ní Chuilín, Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon, and Bishop Anthony Farquahar representing the Diocese of Down and Connor, the school trustees.

Ulster Rugby Chief Executive Shane Logan added: “This is a fantastic shared facility that has enormous benefits to Ulster Rugby, Aquinas Grammar School and to the local community.

“It means that our team has access to world class training facilities right on its doorstep and will be a great resource to our players as they prepare for matches.

“I would like to thank the DCAL Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín, as well as Belfast City Council for funding this project and to our neighbours, Aquinas Grammar School, for partnering with us so successfully with us on this top-class sports facility.”