TOP politicians have given their backing to a new £15million centre which is set to be built at the home of the Black Cats.
Baroness Jay of Paddington sponsored an event in the House of Lords with Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliot to outline some of the work being undertaken in the North East by the Foundation of Light, the charity arm of Sunderland AFC.
Baroness Jay also revealed plans for the Beacon of Light project, which bosses say has the potential to generate a social return on investment of more than £73million within the next two decades.
She said: “The Beacon of Light will be an inspirational, multi-functional centre of opportunity – bringing people, communities and agencies together to make an outstanding and long lasting difference to people’s lives.”
The £15million development, which will be built on brownfield land next to the Stadium of Light, will expand the work of the charity using the power of football and sport to engage people in activities designed to improve their lives, and the lives of those around them.
It will include classrooms, a 4,000-capacity hall for sports and other community events, multi-purpose rooms and a number of floodlit outdoor junior football pitches.
Chairman of trustees of the Foundation of Light and former SAFC chairman Sir Bob Murray said: “The Beacon will be a vibrant and exciting education, skills and sports facility and will address local issues through four innovative zones given the city is behind national figures in all of these areas.
“The Beacon will be operated as a social enterprise to ensure it is both sustainable and self-sufficient – not a constant ask but, once constructed, a constant give.”
MP Julie Elliot added: “Despite the ground-breaking efforts of the Foundation of Light and various local agencies, Sunderland is still an area with its challenges.
“The Beacon of Light will empower people to take responsibility for their own choices and actions and encourage people to learn more, do more and be more.
“It will allow them to change their world and that of their families and neighbours – a succession of steady and gradual changes that will echo the story of social and economic regeneration in the North East.”
Foundation Trustee and chairman of the charity’s Education Board, Baroness Estelle Morris, was also on hand to support the launch of the project and added: “Over the last decade the Foundation of Light has made invaluable improvements to the communities in which it operates in areas of health, employment, anti-social behaviour and regeneration.
“It is renowned and well-respected as a professional and progressive charity that has won numerous national and regional awards over the years for its pioneering work.
“I’ve been involved with the Foundation of Light for some years and am very excited about the possibilities that the Beacon of Light represents.”