SUNDERLAND welcomed a North East sporting hero as the first sod was cut on a multimillion-pound college development.
Paralympic gold medallist Josef Craig did the honours at City of Sunderland College’s Bede Campus as work got under way on new centres of excellence for sports and performing arts.
The swimmer shot to fame as last year’s games in London when he took gold in the 400m freestyle event and crowned 2012 by being named BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year.
Josef said he hopes the new development will create an Olympic legacy and produce the sporting stars of the future.
Speaking at the ceremony, cerebral palsy sufferer Josef, 16, from Jarrow, South Tyneside, said: “I’ve never done a turf dig before, but it’s a real honour to be invited along here to do this.
“The North East needs to create new sports facilities to help young people get to the level I am at and better.
“This area has got great sporting talent and great people in all aspects of sport, and we need to give them the facilities to show off their skills.”
The new facilities will include a sports science lab, fitness suites, a treatment room, a four court sports hall as well as studios for dance, drama, music, media and photography.
After lifting the first sod of earth at the Durham Road site, Josef handed over the project to developer BAM Construction who are carrying out the work.
It is expected that the new build will create a number of apprenticeships for students at the college once completed.
College principal Anne Isherwood said: “It’s a very exciting time with a lot happening across the college, and I know everyone is eager to see these facilities completed and being used by students.”
The new facilities are expected to be open by September 2014.