Avoniel Leisure Centre, Belfast

Heron Bros. and team plays key role in helping Belfast City Council achieve its Leisure Transformation Programme goals as fourth project hits…


Award-winning construction and property development company, Heron Bros. has completed the state-of-the-art Avoniel Leisure Centre as part of a £65m investment into leisure provision in East Belfast.

The Belfast-wide £105 million Leisure Transformation Programme has already funded the regeneration of Brook, Andersonstown and Lisnasharragh Leisure Centres – all delivered by Heron Bros.

The £8 million Avoniel scheme comprised demolition of the existing out-dated facility and replacement new-build, football centre of excellence, which addresses the previous lack of pitches in the area for local teams.

Commenting on the new centre, Lord Mayor Kate Nicholl said, “The council was excited to bring regeneration to an area that needs it and to give people in the area first-class facilities. There is also a psychological impact to everything, you would be proud to live near this and it shows we are investing in the city and looking after everyone.” 

Gareth Kirk, Director of the regional leisure trust GLL, said, “The contrast of the new centre compared to the old leisure centre is night and day, and this is an example of all the leisure transformation going on. We are bringing leisure centres from the 80s and 90s into the modern day which would rival any from across Europe.”

The new centre of excellence includes an Intermediate FIFA-standard 4G football pitch with a 250-seat covered spectating terrace, three covered and two uncovered 4G five-a-side pitches, an outdoor 4G seven-a-side pitch, multi-purpose rooms, conferencing spaces and changing areas.

Specialist access control was installed to allow members to pre-purchase and pre-book a pitch online and scan a QR code to gain pitch entry through an automated turnstile.

Despite being one of the smaller leisure projects carried out by Heron Bros, it did present its own unique challenges, as Project Manager, Donard Leonard, explained, “The demolition of the existing early-80s constructed Avoniel Leisure Centre required the removal of some challenging infrastructure such as the 25m concrete and steel reinforced swimming pool, not to mention substantial asbestos remediation. Also, as the site is bound on one side by the Connswater Greenway, we needed to maintain that public interface, so we erected permanent fencing to make it as smooth a connection as possible.”

Offsite construction
As with most current construction projects across Northern Ireland, the shortage in construction materials caused an issue, but a semi-modular approach mitigated some of the delay to the schedule of works. “A lot of construction was fabricated offsite,” said Donard. “For example, the terrace was precast in two sections and transported to site. This offsite solution definitely helped us in the current climate.”

The redevelopment works spanned 14 months and included demolition, which took place throughout July and August 2020. Piling began the following month, with construction completed in September 2021.

Heron Bros is delighted with the successful delivery of their fourth leisure transformation project for Belfast City Council and is already on site for their fifth job, the £17 million restoration project at the iconic Templemore Baths. This heritage project will preserve and enhance the surviving original features of this landmark building and extend its footprint to provide modern-day leisure and spa facilities.

Project team…
Belfast City Council
Main Contractor: Heron Bros.
Project Manager: AECOM
Structural and architectural design team: McAdam
M+E consultants: JCP Consulting Mechanical & Electrical
Contractor: Dowds Group

Visit Avoniel at www.better.org.uk/leisure-centre/belfast/avoniel

2 St Patricks St, Draperstown, Magherafelt BT45 7AL
T: +44 (0)28 7962 8505
E: info@heronbros.com

Dowds Group

Dowds Group completed the full MEP installation for the £8 million redevelopment of Avoniel Leisure Centre, including infrastructure works such as water, gas and HV upgrades.  

Forming part of the Belfast Leisure Transformation Programme, the Avoniel Leisure Centre project involved the redevelopment of the existing centre, which comprised a community sports hall and gym facility, grass pitches, 3G and associated changing pavilion.

The Ballymoney-based company was contracted to provide comprehensive Mechanical and Electrical services for Avoniel Leisure Centre,

“Even though the building is small, there are a lot of services in the ceiling voids to accommodate plumbing, ventilation, power and data, so space was at a premium,” said Mechanical Contracts Manager, Aaron Corr. “Time was spent prior to starting on site, with our in-house BIM department ensuring firstly everything fitted, and secondly, we could access all serviceable/maintainable items as required. We feel the installation meets the high standard that our customers and clients expect from us.”

For the electrical side on this project, Dowds used the Gripple Fast Trak system, which is the latest solution from Gripple, for bracketing solutions. “We found this an effective method of bracketing, and the guys on site could see the time-saving benefit,” said Seamus Close, Electrical Contracts Manager. 

Commenting on the project as a whole, Operations Manager, Jack Gourley said, “The project itself moved smoothly, and it really was an enjoyable project to be involved in. The building and pitches are nestled amongst houses, out of sight, compared to the other BLC projects to date. 

“The facility itself provides great opportunity for the surrounding areas, and hopefully we will see the next young sports stars using these facilities. It was great for Dowds Group to be part of another piece of the Belfast Leisure Transformation Programme.”

For more than four decades, Dowds has been delivering quality installations to a diverse range of clients throughout the UK and Ireland, earning a glowing reputation across the Health, Education, Commercial and Industrial sectors. The new facilities at Avoniel Leisure Centre also provide further evidence of expertise in the multi-faceted and often complicated leisure arena.

“For Dowds Group this was a great opportunity to work with Belfast City Council to deliver this fantastic new leisure facility for the community,” Jack added.

Commenting on the working dynamics with the main contractor, Jack said, “Dowds Group and Heron Bros. work extremely well together. When working alongside Herons, it feels like we are all working towards the same end goal. We find solutions on site, discussing problems face-to-face. With Teams meetings/emails and RFI’s being ever so popular, it probably feels like it’s becoming a forgotten approach, but it works. It keeps things moving.”

Dowds Group, 2-4 Milltown Road, Ballymoney, Co. Antrim BT53 6LE
T: +44 (0)28 2766 2789
E: info@dowdsgroup.com

Electro Automation NI

Electro Automation (NI) is part of the Electro Group, with branches in Lisburn, Dublin, Surrey, Birmingham and Germany. With 36+ years of experience and more bases, engineers and support than any other local company, they were uniquely positioned to provide Avoniel Lesiure Centre’s new Speed Lane access system, fully integrated with the membership system, controlling, validating and counting all access.

The leisure industry has been a strong focus for Electro Automation NI in recent years, and they’ve been developing products and integrations in line with a vast range of requirements. James Boomer, Integrated Sales Consultant for Electro Automation explained, “We have positioned ourselves in the market to provide not only the physical turnstiles or speed lane systems but also the all-important integration to the facilities membership system. 

“This involves a great understanding of integration of the hardware and software and the ability to demonstrate this to all interested parties. We have become very active in this sector and with specially developed products, we are now a clear choice for delivering properly functioning and supported systems.”

The Speed Lanes for this project required a combination of efficiency, access requirements and accountability. Special consideration was given to very wide sports wheelchair access along with high volume access. With staff deployed more effectively, the Speed Lanes had to be ‘Self-Managing’. 

James added, “The environment within leisure centres is challenging. High volumes of various users require quick, accurate and safe access, all with minimal leisure staff input. Product design from the outset was a key success factor to satisfy the stringent operational and safety demands. Working closely with the manufacturers, the correct product was designed. Coupled with the ‘integration’ intellectual property of Electro Automation, we were able to deliver the perfect solution.”

Electro highlights that a key factor to its success is the rapid availability of local support using trained engineers. 

Commenting on the completed project, James said, “Working with Heron Bros within this sector continues to be a winning combination. We both continue to build a working relationship from initial enquiry to system switch-on and we have found the whole experience very rewarding. We look forward to working together on the next project.”

Electro Automation (NI) Ltd,
21 Crescent Business Park,
Enterprise Crescent, Lisburn BT28 2GN
T: +44 (0)28 9266 4583
E: info@electroautomation.co.uk

Monowa Operable Wall Systems Ltd

Monowa was asked to provide and install one of its Single Point Operable Walls into Avoniel Leisure Centre’s new multi-purpose studio.

This operable/movable wall comprises single panels, suspended by a carriage, which run along a head track channel in line with the ceiling. The system is fixed into a structural soffit and has no floor tracks. Each panel has its own internal mechanism, which, when the panel is put into place, can be activated to release a seal profile which extends from the top and bottom of the panel, to push against the head track and the floor respectively. Each panel is set against the other using this method to make the wall, which offers sound attenuation and divides the space accordingly.

Monowa specialises in the installation and maintenance of movable walls and sliding folding partitions. Based near London, they cover the UK and Ireland on a nationwide basis. 

Their portfolio has spanned a range of sectors including: health care, education, retail, commerce, industry and professional through to sport, leisure, conference and hospitality venues both in the UK and overseas. 

Commenting on the completed project, Monowa Director, Catherine Whelan, said, “Following the issues with Brexit and the pandemic, we are excited to be back installing in Northern Ireland. It was fantastic working with Heron Brothers again. The whole process was well co-ordinated by all involved and our workforce got on well on site with their team.”

Monowa Operable Wall Systems Ltd,
Greenacres, Flaunden Lane,
Belsize, Herts, WD3 4NS
T: +44 (0)1923 244 258
E: sales@monowa.co.uk


Rubb Buildings

Rubb Buildings teamed up with Heron Bros. to design their third major project together, this time to create a stunning sports facility.

Like all projects, there were some challenges along the way – none of which were major and so a few design details were looked at and discussed between Rubb as the designer and Heron Bros as the main contractor to ensure they were providing a solution which was safe for the community.

“This was a design and build project in which Rubb proposed a system that was both aesthetically pleasing and functional for the purpose of the building,” explained Stephnie Coyle, Sales Executive for Rubb Buildings.

“We included our reverse tapered leg design on this project to achieve a better look to the building. With all of Rubb’s facilities being designed in house by our structural engineer, we have the capability to achieve various designs, and they are all designed and manufactured in house at our factory here in Gateshead, Tyne & Wear.”

Rubb started making engineered fabric structures in Norway in 1968 and has gone on to become a world leader in the design, manufacture, delivery and erection of fabric building solutions. The company has earned a reputation for tackling difficult and unique projects, developing substantial structures that can be moved on wheels or rails or even lifted around a project site in fully erected form.

Commenting on the projects, Stephnie said, “We have a great relationship with Heron Bros., and when we were approached with the opportunity to work on this project we were delighted to develop a building that combines the traditional MUGA cover with a modern day football facility.

“On all occasions, our work for Heron Bros has resulted in great facilities being delivered as part of fantastic overall schemes across Northern Ireland.”

Rubb Buildings, 246 Dukesway, Team Valley Trading Estate, Gateshead NE11 0QE
T: +44 (0)191 482 2211
E: info@rubbuk.com


Whitemountain was awarded the aggregates and ready mixed concrete supply packages for the redevelopment of the Avoniel Leisure Centre in East Belfast.  

High quality aggregates and sub-base materials were supplied from its Comber Depot, which included a variety of products for all site requirements.

The ready mixed concrete supply package required Whitemountain to provide various strengths of concrete for different aspects of the build, from mud mats right up to high strength designed structural mixes and waterproof concretes.

The concrete was produced at Whitemountain’s QSRMC-Approved Comber Depot using its own in-house, high quality aggregates and sand as the main constituents. 

Whitemountain is part of the Breedon Group and operates as the group’s construction materials business in Northern Ireland. Whitemountain is also a civil engineering contractor, a major asphalt pavement contractor and a leading exporter of premium aggregates to Great Britain.

T: +44 (0)28 9263 9755 or 07436 031768
E: sales@whitemountain.co.uk

Belfast Insulation Company

Northern Ireland’s leading insulation installer, Belfast Insulation Company was asked to come on board the Avoniel Leisure Centre project to supply and fit their high-grade bonded bead insulation to make the cavity walls as efficient as possible. 

Modern insulation installation will drastically reduce the harmful CO2 emissions caused by private homes and commercial energy consumption, and this will be achieved in this fantastic new resource for the surrounding community and further afield. 

As a family business, Belfast Insulation Company has been providing insulation expertise for over 30 years with over 5,000 successful installs per year.

Although Belfast Insulation Company has completed prestigious contracts for the public sector before; completing the cavity wall insulation on this project will stand out amongst previous projects due to the impressive specification of the building.  

Commenting on the completed project, Ryan Gilpin said, “Working with Herron Brothers on this project has been fantastic and the high standards set and maintained throughout have made the experience very easy. We at Belfast Insulation Company aim to continuing providing our quality service and products to Herron Brothers on future projects and further our working relationship.” 

T: +44 (0)28 9042 4411

Collen Bros (Quarries) Ltd

Collen Bros (Quarries) Ltd supplied and installed the asphalt surfaces to the footpath, 3G pitch and car park for the Avoniel Leisure Centre redevelopment project.

The surfaces were laid using a Volvo P6870D ABG compact paver– a brand- new investment made by the quarry and asphalt supplier/contractor. Based in Tandragee, Co. Armagh, Collen Bros (Quarries) Ltd supplies and lays asphalt throughout Northern Ireland and as far south as Dublin, with a 30-mile radius for aggregate delivery.

The Collen family traces its building and quarrying routes back to 1810. It supplies to and carries out work for the private, commercial and public sectors. Main areas of expertise include the manufacture and laying of asphalt products, production and supply of a wide range of quarry materials, and supply of quality high PSV aggregates.

Renowned for its attention to detail and strong customer service, this is Collen’s second leisure centre job completed for main contractor Heron Bros. in recent years. “Return business is very important to us and something we aim for,” said Director, Peter Collen. 

T: +44 (0)28 3833 4131
E: info@collenbros.co.uk

Metal Deck Ireland Ltd (MDI)

Metal Deck Ireland Ltd (MDI) designed, supplied and installed the composite metal floor deck and reinforced slab at the Avoniel Leisure Centre project for main contractors, Heron Bros.

The Omagh-based company was asked to design and detail construction drawings for approval, supply and installation of the composite metal floor deck with mobile shear stud welding ready for the full concrete slab. Reinforcement and concrete placement was then completed by MDI.

Founded in 2015 by Thomas Nugent and Conor McGlinchey, Metal Deck Ireland combines Thomas’ QS background with Conor’s site expertise to create highly designed and hands-on project delivery. 

Metal Deck Ireland offers complete design, supply and installation of metal floor and roof decks, mobile shear stud welding and reinforcement and concrete placement.

Commenting, Thomas Nugent, Managing Director said, “From the outset, it was a very straightforward, hassle-free project, which is typical of working with Herons Bros. It was a great project to be involved with and gave us a great opportunity to continue our well established working relationship with Heron Bros.”

T: +44 (0)28 8225 9042

Eden Fabrications

Eden Fabrications installed the structural steelwork and cold rolled cladding support system on the Avoniel Leisure Centre project.

From its state-of-the-art facilities in Portglenone, the firm engineered the canopy structure to provide the client with a cost-efficient project solution. This BIM-compliant project meant that documentation and data sharing had to meet the BIM standards.

Since its formation in 2007, Eden Fabrications has become a leading supplier and erector of structural steel, and is capable of undertaking projects from 1 ton to 1,000 across the UK and Ireland. 

Having Execution Class 3 enables Eden Fabrications to take on more complex projects such as stadia, bridges, buildings above 15 floors and multi-storey car parking. 

Commenting on the completed project, Daniel O’Boyle said, “This local, high profile community project is something to be proud of and it adds to our growing stadia portfolio which includes Larne FC and St John’s GAC.

“It was great to continue our relationship with one of NI’s leading main contractors.”

T:+44 (0)28 2582 1000
E: office@edenfabrications.com

McAdam Design

McAdam provided the multi-disciplinary design strategy for the total regeneration project at Avoniel Leisure Centre, across all RIBA Stages.

Working closely with the client, stakeholders and contractor, the leading independent multi-disciplinary consultancy practice took inspiration from leisure centres across the UK, and their own portfolio, before creating a visually striking, yet highly functional design for the new complex.

Belfast City Council invested £8million into the East Belfast site to address a lack of multi-use, all weather pitches in the area for local teams within the surrounding community. The existing facilities were demolished and replaced by a new football centre of excellence that includes an intermediate standard 3G football pitch, spectator stand, three covered and two uncovered 3G five-a-side pitches, an outdoor 3G seven-a-side pitch, multi-purpose rooms, meeting spaces and changing spaces.

Lord Mayor Kate Nicholl said, “This £8 million is so exciting, bringing regeneration to an area that needs it, giving locals in the area first-class facilities. There is also a psychological impact to everything, you would be proud to live near this and it shows we are investing in the city and looking after everyone.”

T: +44 (0)28 9040 2000
E: admin@mcadamdesign.co.uk