Leisureland has to be run like a business, with innovation and not with a civil service approach, that is the warning a number of councillors gave city council management after being informed the facility will now not open fully until early December.
The expected timeframe for the opening of the Salthill facility was given by director of services Thomas Connell at a special meeting of the Galway City Council last Monday. Mr Connell explained that a “detailed and timed schedule of works is now in place and being advanced” and the council will do all it can to bring the opening date forward.
Although the hall and outdoor amusement park are operating as normal the pool and gymnasium areas have remained closed since the storm events in early January, with seawater having a devastating effect on the infrastructure of the building. Approval on the tiling package for the pool, pool deck, and the changing rooms was recently received from the insurance company and works are now under way. With equipment ordered and works on-going it is expected that the renovation of the gymnasium will be completed in mid-August. There are also plans for flood defences including the development of an earth mound, constructed inside the existing boundary wall along Rockbarton Road, and the upgrading of the existing boundary wall as well as flood gates across the pedestrian access along the Promenade road.
Many councillors pointed out they had been told the opening would be the first week of October. Cllr Niall McNelis (Lab ) warned the continued closure had been a huge loss for Salthill and the business community. As a member of the board of management, Cllr Pearce Flannery (FG ) agreed with Cllr McNelis’ request for monthly management accounts and a yearly forecast to be provided. Cllr Flannery then pointed out that there was €250,000 owed by the previous operator of the amusement park. “No private business would allow that to continue,” said Cllr Flannery.
Constructed in 1973 Leisureland is owned by the council but operated and managed by Galway Salthill Failte Ltd. There is also a seven member board of directors in place with five members being elected members of the city council. A member of this board for 10 years, Cllr Padraig Conneely (FG ), said that he had seen many reports, none of which had been acted on. “There’s been a lazy attitude of mismanagement over the years, and that’s why it is so dependent on the council. It has to be run in a professional manner,” said Cllr Conneely. This was echoed by Cllr Billy Cameron (Lab ) who criticised the management of Leisureland for having “no innovation”. Questioning why Leisureland hall cannot be run in the same manner as the Town Hall or the Black Box, Cllr Cameron said there was plenty of talent in Galway to ensure the events hall realised its full potential. Cllr Mike Cubbard (Ind ) then expressed concern that the gym would be left closed for four months while the pool renovation is completed.
Mr Connell explained that he was not in a position to give the final costs of the renovation while the claim with the insurance company was on-going. He then denied ever telling the board of directors that the facility would be opened in October, only that the council would “try to achieve” an earlier opening.
“I was chairman then and there was no discussion that it couldn’t be accomplished,” retorted City Mayor Donal Lyons (Ind ). Mr Connell then disagreed with Cllr Conneely’s comments, adding “every effort is being made to run the facility as efficiently as possible”. “Competition has been intense. Innovation has been there and we are moving with the times,” said Mr Connell, who added that plans were in place to open the gym in August but there were health and safety issues to be dealt with. Regarding money outstanding from the amusement park Mr Connell said that it was being chased.