The contract for a €12.5 million National Outdoor Pursuits Academy complex in Castlebar, to include a wide range of sports and leisure facilities, is to go to tender next month.
Director of services in the Castlebar Municipal District Paddy Mahon told the Mayo Advertiser yesterday (Thursday ) that the project is ready to proceed to the next stage and construction work on the Lough Lannagh site is likely to begin early next year.
The project is expected to deliver a welcome boost to the local construction sector and ultimately position Castlebar - and Lough Lannagh in particular - as a top class destination in the sporting and athletics scene in Ireland.
It includes a state-of-the-art 25 metre pool with a full suite of leisure facilities, a national training centre for outdoor pursuits, an athletics track, and multiple sports fields.
The main funding partners are the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mayo County Council, and GMIT.
The project has attracted some controversy during the planning process with regards to whether or not it should include an Olympic-sized swimming pool but it looks like this has now been put to bed.
A last ditch effort to see the project upgraded to include the 50 metre pool was launched this week.
At the monthly meeting on Wednesday of the Castlebar Municipal District, Independent councillor Frank Durcan called on his elected colleagues to vote to abandon the plan to construct a 25 metre pool in favour of a 50 metre Olympic pool.
He said the larger pool would significantly increase visitor numbers to Castlebar and benefit the entire local economy.
“I have no doubt it will become totally viable,” he urged.
Cllr Therese Ruane said such a move would be akin to playing “Russian roulette” with a project that is on the cusp of proceeding to tender with all of the necessary funding already in place.
She said an Olympic sized pool would be a “white elephant” that would cost Mayo County Council an additional €400,000 annually to maintain.
After a prolonged and heated debate, the motion eventually failed on a vote of four to three. Councillors Blackie Gavin (FF ), Michael Kilcoyne (Ind ), and Durcan (Ind ) supported the motion while councillors Al McDonnell (FF ), Therese Ruane (SF ), Cyril Bourke (FG ), and Henry Kenny (FG ) voted against. Cllr Lisa Chambers (FF ) was not in attendance.
The construction phase for the complex is expected to take between 12 to 18 months, according to Mr Mahon, so the sports facility should be up and running before the close of 2016.