Work to build a state-of-the-art indoor football facility in Newton Aycliffe is ahead of schedule.
The £1.5m Soccer Factory, which will provide seven 3g five-a-side courts at its new premises on Aycliffe Business Park (ABP), is expected to open later this year.
The first of a three-phase refurbishment programme started last month and was expected to take six weeks.
But the initial stripping out and re-surfacing work within the former Thrislington Partitions building, which had stood empty for five years, has now finished a week early.
The second phase of the development, a complex task to repair the badly-damaged roof, is now due to start and expected to take a further six weeks.
Managing director Dan Lewis (pictured), the driving force behind the ambitious plans, said: “We’re already seeing a transformation of the building inside.
“Walls have disappeared, the floor is perfectly smooth and the whiff of fresh paint hits you when you walk through the door.
“The most pleasing thing up to now is we’re ahead of schedule. There are six weeks scheduled for the next phase of the development and we’ll have to see how long that takes.
“But it’s already starting to look like a different building and it’s very exciting for us – we’re now counting down the weeks until our opening.”
The Soccer Factory, which sits at the corner of the Beaumont Way junction with Durham Way North on ABP, was previously occupied by Thrislington, which closed in 2008 after 62 years on the town with the loss of 60 jobs.
Durham County councillors voted unanimously in favour of the new development in February 2012.
The new landlords of the unit invested a significant amount of cash to kick-start the Soccer Factory project last month.
Once up and running, it will provide a brand new health and fitness suite, a multipurpose studio, a café/ bar and a sports injury clinic as well as the seven football pitches made with the latest 3g, rubber-crumb surfaces.
It promises to create 15 new jobs and, along with other leisure facilities on Aycliffe Business Park, ensure the town becomes a popular destination for people from the whole of the South West Durham area, as well as further afield.
Mr Lewis added: “It’s been a dream of mine for a long time to see this come to fruition.
“It’s hugely exciting and something we think will be very popular – something for people and the business community to buy in to – and we strongly feel this will be a great development for Newton Aycliffe and the surrounding area.”
You can follow the progress of The Soccer factory on Twitter @ThSoccerFactory and Facebook www.facebook.com/TheSoccerFactoryLtd