An Olympic size 50-metre swimming pool – rather than the proposed 25-metre swimming pool – should be incorporated into the new €12.5 million Sports Academy planned at Lough Lannagh, which would in turn guarantee national success and make Castlebar the tourist centre of the west.
This is according to Mayo Independent councillor, Cllr Frank Durcan, who during a presentation on the project by Castlebar Town Manager, Seamus Granahan, at a Mayo County Council meeting on Monday last, made his proposal while noting that the many champion swimmers from Mayo have to travel with their clubs and family support, at their own expense, in order to train and compete in the nearest 50 meter pool in Limerick.
Cllr Durcan stated: “I think there is a basic defect in the whole plan; there is a 25m pool in most towns in Ireland now but very few 50m pools. People have to travel outside the province for international competitions – and there are many in Mayo doing this at considerable personal expense. It would make a great difference not only to our proficient swimmers training in clubs in Mayo but would also bring an entirely new raft of elite swimmers who could do some of their training while visiting Castlebar.”
Referring to the Lough Lannagh Holiday Village next to the Sports Academy site, Cllr Durcan added: “I live beside this Holiday Village and walk by there every day. From my own observations I would put occupancy of the village at just 25 per cent. There is just nothing to support it. However, it would be full 52 weeks of the year if the pool was 50m and would be an extra attraction for students to travel internationally to GMIT. We have the chance now. If we’re going to do this let’s do it right. Let’s make Castlebar GMIT a centre of excellence in the British Isles. We would recoup the money on the cost difference between building a 25m pool and a 50m pool in just a few years. We will be the tourist centre in the west if we do it right.”
Castlebar Town Manager and Director of Services, Seamus Granahan, described the sports academy as a ‘very exciting project’ that would incorporate a running track, access to Lough Lannagh, playing pitches, a multi-gym, a climbing wall and 25m pool, over two floors and more.
Mr Granahan stated: “Swimming pools are not economically viable on their own and the existing pool in Castlebar has been there 30 years and has run its course, so this new sports academy will be a win win for the town and GMIT.
He added: “Right now we are still only at the planning stage and will welcome any submissions, whether its for a 50m pool or water park. We want to do the best proposal we can but we have to be realistic as well.”