Architect George Clarke has had a sneak peek around the landmark set to transform the city’s provision for young people and families - as well as the skyline.
Washington-born George, who rose to prominence on TV shows such as Restoration Man and Amazing Spaces, is a passionate supporter of the Foundation of Light’s ambitious Beacon of Light facility which is being built in the shadow of the Stadium of Light.
As part of his role as a trustee of the charity, he’s been given an exclusive tour of the £19million facility, which he described as “world-class”, ahead of its opening to the public later this year.
“The city should be proud of this,” said George as he took a look at the roof-top football barn, multi-use sports hall and health and education classrooms which are beginning to take shape.
George was joined by the foundation’s assistant director for sales and delivery Jamie Wright during the visit.
The architect, who makes regular trips back home to Wearside, said: “It looks absolutely brilliant. I can’t quite believe that the Beacon of Light is nearly done. I’m still in a state of shock to be honest.
“There’s nothing like this in the city, or for miles around when you think about it in terms of scale, size and flexibility. I’ve been a trustee of the foundation for five years and we had this idea of one day having a flag ship world-class building and we’re nearly there.
“There’s going to be a real buzz about the place. There’s going to be lots of diversity under one roof – it’s pretty amazing.
“The city should be really proud of [the Beacon]. We haven’t just built it for the foundation, we’ve built it for the City of Sunderland and it’s a space for everyone to come and use.”
The Beacon of Light will house a broad range of Foundation of Light’s award-winning community programmes through four zones: Education; Health and Wellbeing; Sport and Play; and the World of Work.
Construction work began on the project in late 2016 at the all-encompassing community hub, which will house the charity once it’s complete.
Jamie Wright added: “We want the Beacon to be a building for the North East. We want everyone from across the region to come and use the facilities.
“It’s not an elite environment, the Beacon is for everybody, but the facilities are elite. Everybody should feel they can come here and play football, regardless of age, gender and ability.”