WIGAN’S Youth Zone may be on its way to establishing iconic status in the town’s history but for its Life President, it will always be known by a different name.
“While it will be known as the Youth Zone area and the name of the building is the Youth Zone, for me this is Wigan Boys and Girls’ Club, just the new version.” Mr Whelan explains, who was an avid member of the Youth Zone’s predecessor which was situated on Wallgate during his teenage years.
He said: “I first went to the boys club when I was almost 12 years old. I was taken by my father and it was in a rough area. From that day forward I never went anywhere else at night. In the evening I could play musical instruments in the brass band, table tennis and train in the boxing club.
“I met youngsters who were mad keen on music and mad keen on sport, like me, and I was able to do that every day.
“In the summer, we had a camp in Parbold and I would go every weekend. We would play football all day, cook and look after ourselves. I owe it to that place for where I’ve got to today. It was a fantastic place.
“I was brought up at the Boys Club and there will be a plaque outside the front door that will say Wigan Boys and Girls’ Club, because I insist.”
The 76-year-old’s desire and enthusiasm for Wigan to have a new youth club has driven the project from day one. Along with fellow businessmen Martin and Bill Ainscough, Mr Whelan has worked to make sure the Youth Zone has the best equipment available at the £6.5m purpose built facility.
And like his partner founder patrons, Mr Whelan has donated a sizeable amount of funds out of his own pocket to get the project up and running.
He said: “It is going to be best thing of its kind in Europe and I think what we have established here will be recreated around the country. Every place should have one and every one will be impressed with what we have done and I think every person in Wigan should be proud that we’ve got it.
“It is there for youngsters to come and play sport, play music together and to meet each other. I think it will be a wonderful thing and a great learning curve for the children of Wigan.”
FULL STORY IN THIS WEEK’S WIGAN OBSERVER (OUT TUESDAY) - FEATURING A 28-PAGE SUPPLEMENT ON THE MAGNIFICENT YOUTH ZONE ...