FOOTBALL fans from across the world will soon have the opportunity to sleep in George Best’s bedroom.
It follows the refurbishment of his childhood home at Burren Way in Belfast’s Cregagh estate by a local regeneration partnership.
A £100,000 investment from the Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) enabled the sale and ensured that the footballing legend’s iconic home remains in the ownership of the community of east Belfast for the foreseeable future.
UCIT, a major provider of finance and business support to the social economy sector in Northern Ireland, has provided the funding to local not-for-profit property development company Landmark East, a company owned by East Belfast Partnership.
The property was the Best family home for more than 60 years and East Belfast Partnership has now almost completed its conversion into self-catering holiday accommodation, which will be available to rent by the public later next month.
The three-bedroomed property is one of the most recognisable addresses in the Province and has a plaque on the wall marking Best’s recognition as a freeman of the borough of Castlereagh, awarded in 2001.
The Manchester United and Northern Ireland football legend died in 2005 following a long battle with alcoholism.
His 88-year-old father Dickie lived in the family home until his death in April 2008.
As a toddler, George Best was said to have kicked his first ball in the back garden there and he walked up the street to play on the nearby Cregagh green, as he grew older and more proficient at the game that became his lifeblood.
The terraced house was also where George’s funeral cortege left from, under the eyes of the world’s media in 2005.
At the time of the sale, last year, the identity of the buyers remained a mystery, but the football legend’s sister, Barbara McNarry, said the family were “very pleased with the outcome”.
Buyers Landmark East said that the house will now “go live” for holidaymakers in August and praised the Best family for their help in turning the family home into an attraction, which will be a mecca for football fans.
“We’ve been refurbishing everything and we really wanted to keep George’s room just as it was, when he signed for Manchester United and left Belfast,” a spokesperson said.
“Of course, there will be new beds across the house, but George’s room will have a vintage and retro feel, just how he would have had it as a teenager.
“And the family have been just brilliant, giving us things like his old school reports and pictures and text, that we can use on interpretative panels, just like a mini-museum.”
Jonathan McAlpin, director of operations at UCIT, said that the company was delighted to have been able to provide funding to Landmark East, enabling the purchase of the Burren Way family home.
Mr McAlpin said: “As well as the wider economic benefits that turning the property into unique holiday accommodation will bring, the purchase by Landmark East ensures that an important piece of local history remains in the hands of, and benefits, the local community in east Belfast.”
And Maurice Kinkead, chief executive of Landmark East, said that the investment from UCIT was most welcome and that profits would be fed back into the local community and used for other regeneration projects in east Belfast.