Carrick Rangers Football Club is hoping for a share in a £17m funding pot set aside by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) for investment in football grounds across Northern Ireland.
The Danske Bank Premiership outfit is one of several clubs in Northern Ireland entitled to apply for a slice of the funding, with a maximum of £3m per venue in the ‘in subregional stadia’ strand.
The cash would represent a massive boost to the Gers, potentially transforming their Taylor’s Avenue home, the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena.
Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has announced a 12-week public consultation on the funding plans, and Carrick’s vice-chairman, Adam Simpson, told the Times: “As a designated stadium in Northern Ireland, we are hopeful of receiving funding for the development and we look forward to engaging with the consultation review which has been outlined by the minister.”
This summer Carrick secured planning permission for the construction of new grandstand, changing rooms and ancillary accommodation.
Mr Simpson admits the ground is in need of a major facelift and said funding would be vital, not just in terms of the facilities on offer, but for the future of the club.
“While we try to make the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena as welcoming a venue as possible for supporters and guests, there’s no doubt it’s in need of significant improvements,” he said.
“At present, we do not have the level of facilities that would allow us to grow, in terms of developing not only the club, but also enhancing our involvement with the local community in the level and quality of facility and service that we can offer. DCAL investment would be significant, not only for Carrick Rangers, but for the community as a whole.
“At present Carrick Rangers is one of the largest and most pro-active community groups in the area. With hundreds of children - boys and girls - aged five and above involved within the club each week.
“To ensure we can continue to play such an important and active role within the community, it’s important the level of our facilities is enhanced. The nature of this funding is integral to ensuring that Carrick Rangers can continue to develop.”