Banks Group grant reopens Northburn Sports Centre mixed use games area

June 17, 2013 | Brenkley News

The mixed use games area at a popular south-east Northumberland leisure centre has been resurfaced and reopened thanks to a five-figure grant from a north east employer.

When it opened in 2005, the facilities at The Northburn Sports & Leisure Centre in Cramlington included a mixed use games area (MUGA), but despite its popularity, it soon became apparent that the surface became very slippy and unsafe whenever it got wet.

As a result, the MUGA had to be closed for safety reasons, leading to a great deal of frustration amongst its users, especially the junior and senior players from Cramlington United Football Club who trained at the venue, but who had to find alternatives locations out of their area for their training sessions as a result.

The centre management team were unable to find the funding required to replace the defective surface until Banks Mining, which operates the nearby Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines, stepped in with a £10,000 grant from its Banks Community Fund.

After having its new surface fitted, the MUGA has been reopened and is already proving extremely popular with users of all ages, especially as it is available free of charge for anyone who wants to play on it when it’s not booked out for specific events.

As well as enabling the football club to move its training sessions back to Northburn, the MUGA is also hosting a regular Friday night five-a-side football competition for players aged 15 and over, which regularly attracts more than 30 players and which only costs one pound for each player taking part.

A disability sports session is held at the MUGA every Thursday, and it will also host a wide-ranging activity programme for local young people during the forthcoming school summer holidays.

Northburn Sports & Community Centre manager Amy Foggett says: “The Centre is a distance away from other parts of the town, and there’s nothing else like it in the area, which means that the facilities we offer are the only ones that are easily accessible for a lot of local young people.

Being able to see the MUGA, but not being able to use it was extremely frustrating for everyone who wanted to be out there on the court, and despite everyone’s best efforts, it looked very unlikely that we’d be able to find the money we needed to resolve the problems with the playing surface due to the current financial climate.

“The money that Banks has provided is already making a huge difference to their sporting and social lives of everyone that uses the centre – the new MUGA is packed out as soon as the local schools finish for the day, and everyone absolutely loves the fact that they can get out there and use it again.

“We encourage our young users to play their part in looking after the facilities, and it gives them the degree of ownership of and pride in the venue that makes them want to do just that, which can only be good for them from a character-building, as well as a sporting point of view.

“It seemed like there was no way we were going to be able to find the money to get this work done, so everyone involved with the Centre is especially grateful to Banks for the funding they’ve provided to achieve our goal.”

Banks is currently looking to secure planning permission for additional work at the Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines, at which around 200 people are currently employed and which contribute around £20m every year to the local economy through wages and the supply chain.

Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at Banks Group, adds: “The facilities at the Northburn Sports Centre are extremely popular with local people. I’m delighted that Banks Community Fund was able to help to improve the playing surface, and it’s great to see the newly resurfaced MUGA being so well used.”

Projects, community groups, or voluntary organisations looking for funding in the vicinity of a Banks Group development should contact James Eaglesham at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342.

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