A national-standard concert hall, similar to the the Point or Millstreet, is one of the campaign promises of Athlone Town Council candidate for Fine Gael, Mr Alan Shaw.
“Athlone could see the opening of a world class performance venue, capable of attracting international acts like Riverdance, Beyonce, The Killers, Pink, Disney on Ice, Aida and the likes,” suggested Mr Kelly.
Despite the recent closure of The Passionfruit Theatre and there being two other such venues in the town, Kelly is adamant that a state of the art venue should be provided in Athlone.
“Given the central location of Athlone on this island, served by both by an inter-urban motorway and rail network, its accessibility is unlimited,” he said.
“Accommodation is abundant, provided by the many high quality hotels that have opened here in recent years.”
Alan Shaw knows and supports the existing venues, which serve their purpose, but a large scale concert venue would give a much needed economic boost to the town.
It would allow Athlone to compete with Galway and Dublin for national and international acts in the pop, rock or opera categories and would also “sound check” the future of hosting the RTE All Ireland Drama Festival in the town, given its growing popularity and demand.
Kelly is suggesting the waterfront area beside Burgess Park in the Golden Island Area is the ideal location for a new theatre.
“The site provides the opportunity to build an iconic structure, focussed on the Shannon and complementing the riverside amenities including the Castle, all in all a tourist attraction in itself,” according to Alan.
The Fine Gael candidate emphasised that even though the new theatre development would occupy some of the area of Burgess Park, the theatre could provide a much needed focal point.
“The current potential of the park is not being exploited. The park could be extended downstream of the river Shannon and expanded to include family-friendly playground and skateboard facilities for local residents.”
Two new theatres were opened last year which will compete with The O2 arena in Dublin. The first was The Royal Theatre in Castlebar with a capacity of 4000, the second being Wexford Opera House with a capacity of 900. Limerick City has a theatre with a capacity of 1000.
Mr Shaw believes that for Athlone to compete for international acts, an auditorium with a capacity of between 1500 -2000 should be looked at.
If elected to Athlone Town Council, Alan Kelly says he will campaign vigorously to bring this project to fruition.
Using Athlone Town Council as a forum, he will highlight the opportunities and facilitate concert promoters and interested businesses in acquiring a suitable site and ensure that the planning for such a badly-needed facility is promoted.
“Funding, of course is a major issue for such a project. However, a public private partnership is the way to go. Attractive projects that can work will always be considered by international and national investors,” he suggested.