Work starts on Rhys Jones centre

Share Button

Rhys Jones

Work has begun on the new £500,000 Rhys Jones Community Centre after plans were approved by Liverpool City Council.

It has been five years since 11-year-old schoolboy Rhys was murdered while walking home from football practice in Croxteth after being caught in the crossfire when rival gangs began to shoot at one another.

It was only in 2008, almost a year after the killing, that Sean Mercer was convicted of the murder, and jailed for 22 years.

Rhys’s parents Melanie and Stephen Jones dug up the first turf of grass for a community centre which will be built in his memory. It will host all-weather football pitches as well as a dance studio and gym. Spectators can also watch from a pavilion that will be built.

The centre has been funded through a partnership of Liverpool Council and the Rhys Jones Memorial Fund. It has been raised through charity events as well as receiving donations from well-known Liverpool figures, such as Rafa Benitez who gave an undisclosed sum.

Plans for the centre had to be altered after funding was re-evaluated. Its original plans included a sports hall, badminton courts, an auditorium, cafe, youth centre and gym.

Croxteth Councillor Peter Mitchell and mayoral lead for parks and open spaces said: “We are absolutely delighted this is going ahead.

“This is a half-a-million pound investment into Croxteth Park. We’re delighted to meet the aspirations of Melanie and Stephen which was the essential, they are the most important people in all of this.

“We can now provide a great facility in the memory of a tragically murdered 11-year-old. The family have been involved all along the planning process, which they have wanted to happen, and been very supportive of. We can’t wait to see contractors start work on the site.”

Approved plans of the Rhys Jones Community Centre

It is hoped that the centre, to be based on land off Langley Close, Croxteth Park will take around 16 months to build and will be officially opened by the summer of 2013.

Rhys’s mother Melanie Jones told the BBC: “It’s been a long time coming but it’s an amazing day today. Rhys would have loved a facility like this because he was football mad.

“I just hope that everyone gets as much enjoyment out of it that he would have done.”

The centre will be used by local schoolchildren as well as residing residents of the area.

Additional reporting by Jonathan Bridge

About Daniel Farrell, JMU Journalism