Janet Potts, 85, who lives on the nearby Shepperson Road and has been looking after the park as a volunteer with the Friends of Hillsborough Park for 15 years was the first customer just before it opened at 8 am this morning.
She said: “It’s absolutely great, we have been wanting this for years and years. I’m sick of people asking ‘when is it opening?’. Finally I can say it’s open, we are here now.
“It means a hell of a lot to the people of Hillsborough to have this open now. Toilets and a cafe have been really needed. It couldn’t be in a better place, it’s lovely. At this time of year when all the crocuses are out and daffodils, it’s gorgeous – where else would you want to be?
“I shall get fat in no time because I love those lovely sourdough breads.
“Seeing this derelict building just crumbling and getting worse year after year has not been nice but I’m glad Steve got started on this, his dream, it’s gorgeous.”
Steve Chu, chief executive of Age UK Sheffield, said the cafe is dementia-friendly and it will generate money for the charity to reinvest in activities for older people, as well as support the Depot Bakery, a local business which already had a site in Neepsend.
He said: “It’s amazing really, I can’t quite believe it.
“If I’d have thought at the start that it was going to take five years I might have been put off but it’s worth it to see it today and the weather is amazing.
“Just seeing the reaction on social media and the people in the local community who really can’t wait for this to happen, it will be fantastic to see it really busy.
“One of the things that really came through when we put in the funding bid from the feedback we got was that this wasn’t just for Age UK Sheffield, they could see this would be something that would benefit the entire community and local residents as well as older people throughout Sheffield.
“People have said it’s a win, win throughout and hopefully that will be proven.”
Other facilities which are part of the wider project will be opening for the first time over the next couple of weeks including the Bowling Pavilion and Bradbury Makers Shed.
The charity said the Bowling Pavilion will have a mixture of performing arts activities – such as signing, dancing, theatre – and physical activities – such as yoga, pilates and chair-based exercises.
The Makers Shed, formerly known as a the Potting Shed, will host creative arts activities including gardening, photography, woodwork and storytelling.
Mr Chu said the charity will be delivering a main activity programme from around April.