Work on the controversial bandstand at Broadway in Ballymena stepped up a gear this week with the foundations being laid for the new structure.
The new structure is being developed as part of the public realm works in the town and Mid and East Antrim Borough Council this week revealed that the unveiling of the new “iconic and cutting-edge structure” will signify the final stage of the scheme.
The reveal of the new structure will also coincide with the beginning of work on its much-loved predecessor’s new home in the People’s Park.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Paul Reid, said it was a “hugely exciting time” for the town.
“The public realm scheme, including the new bandstand, is a signal of intent by this council to do all in its powers to ensure and facilitate major investment in Mid and East Antrim,” Cllr. Reid said.
He added: “The scheme is a substantial regeneration project and is vital to securing strong future economic growth, generating jobs and bringing more people to Mid and East Antrim.
“With any project of this scale, not everything runs exactly as intended all of the time, and we have faced challenges and hurdles along the way. However, thanks to the vision of our partners, including the wonderful traders of the town, the finish line is firmly in our sights.”
Referring to criticism of the design of the new bandstand, Cllr. Reid acknowledged that some had likened the new bandstand to a spaceship.
“I would agree with them to the extent that as a fantastic new centrepiece and entertainment hub, the new bandstand is truly out of this world,” Cllr. Reid said.
He added: “If anything, ‘grandstand’ is more appropriate when you consider the wealth of opportunity provided to our citizens by this investment.
“Unfortunately, given the size of the old bandstand, it has only ever been able to accommodate small-scale events, speakers and entertainers. Consequently, it has been under-used in its current location.
“This scheme will enhance public space, accessibility, commercial attractiveness and safety within the town centre, ensuring that Ballymena is fit for purpose for at least the next 20 years.”
The new bandstand forms one part of the £4.2m regeneration scheme in Ballymena.
A third of this scheme has been paid by ratepayers, with the remainder of the funding provided by central government.
Ronan McCann, President of Ballymena Borough Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which represents businesses throughout the Ballymena area, said: “I am delighted the public realm scheme is now entering its final stages and that this major regeneration and revitalisation project is near completion.
“At a time when businesses throughout Northern Ireland are facing challenging conditions, it is absolutely vital they are given all the necessary support to bolster trade and encourage people into our town centres.
“Ballymena is rightly regarded by many as the best shopping town in Northern Ireland, and this work will be instrumental in safeguarding and growing the unbeatable attractions on offer.”
A consultation process for the new public realm scheme, including the new bandstand, was completed in May 2013 and at the time, won awards for public engagement.
If anyone wishes to contact council in relation to the scheme, email firstname.lastname@example.org