March 2013 saw the opening of the Bangor Aurora Aquatic and Leisure Complex - a new leisure centre at Valentine Playing Fields in Bangor.

The new leisure centre will encompass the following:

  • A 50m x 25m 10 lane swimming pool with a 25m x 15m diving facility, submersible booms and floating floors, together with village style changing areas and spectator viewing;
  • A leisure water area with pool incorporating a wave machine and other attractions including flumes, sidewinder, pirate’s galleon, bubble pool and spa pools;
  • A fitness area with fitness studios and changing facilities;
  • An eight-court sports hall with retractable spectator seating and associated stores;
  • A Performance Development Centre (PDC) for elite athletes;
  • 3G synthetic external pitches and changing facilities;
  • Function rooms;
  • Cafeteria, seating and pool viewing area;
  • Kids play area with play structure; and
  • Staff offices.

Sport Northern Ireland’s investment focused on the construction of a 50m swimming pool and the Performer Development Centre along with associated facilities and equipment.

The total project cost was £37.84m with Sport Northern Ireland and Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) grant contribution (towards the 50m pool and PDC element of the project) at £14.43m.

The 50m pool project was the flagship project under Sport Northern Ireland Elite Facilities Programme, a programme aimed at meeting demand for Olympic sports facilities and leaving a legacy for Northern Ireland post the 2012 Games. North Down Borough Council were selected as the preferred bidder for the 50m pool facility. The facility will provide state of the art sports facilities for the North Down local community and the whole of Northern Ireland, as well as training and strength and conditioning facilities for elite swimmers and athletes.

Many organisations have contributed to the development and success of the project, North Down Borough Council, their design team led by McAdam Design, Farrans Construction, and a vast range of subcontractors and specialists. Sport Northern Ireland has worked closely these organisations, along with CPD, Disability Sports Northern Ireland and Swim Ulster to administer the £14.43m grant award.

The technical specification for the Bangor Aurora 50m pool facilities were developed by SNI in conjunction with Swim Ulster. The 50m training pool has been designed to international FINA standards.  The project incorporates flexibility of use for performance training, leisure use and minor competition, maximises use of natural light within activity areas, and is on track to receive a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.  This is a first for a sports building in Northern Ireland.

The key objectives/outcomes are as follows:

  • To  provide a facility that will allow elite swimmers to reach their full potential;
  • To provide a development programme for elite swimmers which complements the 50 metre pool facility;
  • To provide a facility which encourages greater numbers of people (especially young people) to become involved in sport and in particular swimming;
  • To ensure the needs of local North Down residents are met and that the public are given sufficient access; and
  • To provide facilities that can bring sporting competitions/events to this region, and in particular North Down, with associated economic benefits.