Selection dilemma awaits councillors over sports facility funding

€30m project plans to deliver modern, fit for purpose rugby stadium in addition to new high-performance training centre for Connacht Rugby

Galway city councillors face a major selection dilemma over the next few weeks when they will be asked to prioritise one of three local projects to benefit from the national Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund.

This Monday, they will hear a presentation from Connacht Rugby on its previously announced plans for the development of the Sportsground — a proposal which is well advanced and in planning. The €30m project will deliver a modern, fit for purpose rugby stadium in addition to a new high-performance training centre for Connacht Rugby while also retaining existing greyhound racing facilities.

Last Monday, councillors were told of plans to develop a state of the art aquatic centre at Cappagh Road with a 34m pool, a spacious gym and modern fitness studios. The project costing €11 million would create a major aquatic centre for the west, capable of serving several watersports, including waterpolo. It would be run by the Kingfisher group and was presented by Joe Cosgrove and Padraig Smith. It would revert to the City Council after 25 years.

It would comprise an environmentally sensitive Regional Aquatic Sports Centre with a 34m to 25m competitive swimming pool with a moveable floor and boom, sauna and steam room, fitness studio, S&C high performance area, weights room, changing facilities and Café. The pool will be three times the size of any pool currently available in Galway with multiple activities taking place at any given time.

'Applicants have already said that a multiplicity of sports will be considered for using the facilities if funded'

A third facility, the development of a Water Sports Centre at Dyke Road, was outlined in a presentation by members of Galway Rowing Club. This would serve as a base for a multiplicity of river water sports such as rowing, kayaking, windsurfing, and paddle boarding and would become a regional centre of excellence for those sports.

Councillors were quick to rush to welcome all the projects, but some were not aware that with all three projects seeking funding under the Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund, only ONE of these will be prioritized for a share of the national €100m fund.

This means that within weeks, and before the cut-off date of April, councillors will have to decide which of these three worthy projects deserves their backing. Already, councillors are seeking to see if they can compromise and promote all three, but realistically only one will get funding from the national pot.

The €100m fund closes its application round next month, focusing on the requirements and development plans of National Governing Bodies of Sport and Local Authorities. The scheme will require a minimum contribution of 30 per cent from applicants toward the cost of any works/design.

A large emphasis will be placed on the the flexibility of the promoters of each project to allow multiple sports use the facility, as the Government wishes to move from funding sports projects that are exclusive to one activity — an issue raised by last year's debacle over the staging of the Liam Miller testimonial match at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

As a result, all of the three applicants have already said that a multiplicity of sports will be considered for using the facilities if funded≈. As all three projects have spoken of the necessity to receive LSSIF funding, a refusal to be prioritised would knock back their plans to the drawing board.

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