Local councillors heaped praise on the management and staff of the Athlone Regional Sports Centre, as they discussed the council’s budget on Monday.
With a figure of just over €269,000 allocated towards loan repayments on the centre for the coming year, Athlone-based councillors were quick to justify the expense.
“We made the difficult decision in 2012 to support the refurbishment of the centre by taking out a loan. It almost stands alone nationally, for example in its achievement of the White Flag Gold Standard award,” said Cllr Aengus O’Rourke.
He pointed out that turnover increased by 15 per cent from 2015 to 2016, with a further increase of 17 per cent this year, with membership continuing to increase.
“The staff rose to the challenge; they run an excellent facility and deserve a great deal of credit,” he added.
Cllr John Dolan said while the centre is unlikely to generate a lot of income for the council, “it is providing a core service, and we are there to provide that service”.
Finance director Jimmy Dalton explained that the council is currently repaying two loans on the sports centre: one with €673,000 owing on it, with six years remaining, and the second with €972,000 owing, with five and a half years remaining.