|Jessica Ennis and members of the Urban Mixtures group, Sandro Vashakidze, David Powell, Naseem Akhtar and Kazem Balogun, looking at plans for the new U-Mix centre
ATHLETICS superstar Jessica Ennis is backing plans for FURD's proposed new home - a new youth and sports centre barely a stone’s throw from where she grew up in Sheffield.
The World and European Champion heptathlete said the proposed project in Lowfield Park, bordered by Bramall Lane and Queens Road, would provide much-needed opportunities for young people in a deprived area of the city. Ultra-modern facilities at the U-Mix centre would include a floodlit all-weather synthetic sports pitch and an indoor facility for dance, performing arts and opportunities for education and training.
Jessica, who took a break from training to meet young people who had helped with the project's design, said:
“As a young person who grew up in the Sharrow area of Sheffield, the U-Mix centre planned for Lowfields Park would literally have been a stones throw away from our family home. Sharrow is very diverse, and the centre will be great way for people from different backgrounds to mix together.
”When I was growing up there weren’t many spaces to play sport in the area, so this is a very exciting project, and a massive incentive for young people throughout the area to become involved in sporting activities. I am especially impressed that local young people have been so heavily involved in planning the design, and also in what will happen at the centre once open.
”It’s brilliant that the U-Mix centre is offering a wide range of activities – the music and dance opportunities in particular as I love listening to music while I’m training and competing – but also the advice and support that will be available, such as encouraging a healthy lifestyle, and also the opportunity for young people to act as volunteers in their community.”
A £350,000 grant has already been secured from the Football Foundation to provide an all-weather synthetic sports pitch with floodlights which can be used for football, cricket, netball and rounders by young people, local schools and the wider community.
Alongside the outdoor facilities, the proposals also include a new building which would house changing rooms, a studio for dance and performing arts, space for training opportunities, library resources and a chill-out area.
Young people have been heavily involved in shaping the innovative design plans and how the space will be used and managed in the future, through the 'Urban Mixtures' group. The project is being led by FURD, together with Sheffield Futures (The Hub) and Activity Sheffield.
FURD has played a lead role in supporting young people to influence the project and the facility will provide a secure base for the charity to be able to expand its youth work, volunteering, resource centre, research and sporting activities.
Urban Mixtures and all project partners, including Lowfields School and Sheffield City Council, are now anxiously awaiting final confirmation from the Department for Education that further funding of just over £2 million will go ahead, following agreement in principle in March 2009.
FURD Director Howard Holmes said: "Jessica’s backing has come at a crucial time for this exciting project. She is a very positive model for young people in Sheffield, and it's fantastic that to have her support"