PLANS The drawings for Phase 2 of the National Outdoor Pursuits Academy which were unveiled in 2012. The project is now at risk.
Fears for €5 million second phase of sports facility
Plans for the construction of €5 million sports grounds, announced for Castlebar by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in 2012, have stalled. Phase 2 of the town’s National Outdoor Pursuits Academy is in jeopardy due to funding issues, it has emerged.
The second phase in the €17.5 million project is planned to be located across from GMIT Castlebar and behind the Halting Site off the town’s ring road. With an anticipated cost of €5 million, the second phase of the National Outdoor Pursuits Academy includes plans for a six-lane tartan running track and four playing fields, along with ancillary facilities.
However, there have been growing concerns about this phase of the project in recent weeks, as corroborated by the recent working-group report on the Castlebar Campus of the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, released last month.
A spokesperson for Mayo County Council has also confirmed to The Mayo News that there is a €5 million funding shortfall for the project.
In the working-group report, the benefits of the project to GMIT are articulated, but fears for its future are stressed.
“An outdoor pursuits centre was planned by Mayo County Council adjacent to the campus which would complement the outdoor education provision and provide a future student amenity,” stated the report.
“We do, however, understand that these plans are at risk, and GMIT should work closely with Mayo County Council to establish if a collaborative approach can ensure that they are brought to fruition,” recommended the Working Group.
Meanwhile, the County Council spokesperson told The Mayo News: “We need €5 million, which we haven’t got funded.” He added: “We’d love to get funding and get Phase 2 up and running.”
Phase 1, consisting of a new swimming pool and a training centre for outdoor pursuits at Lough Lannagh is currently under construction, with an estimated cost of €12.5 million.
The two phase €17.5 million project was announced to much fanfare at Lough Lannagh Village by then Taoiseach Enda Kenny in May 2012.
Speaking at the launch, Kenny expressed his confidence the project would soon come to fruition. “This project will become a reality. It will add immeasurably to the town. I want to see this become a reality as soon as possible. What’s here in this development is something that will have my support and we’ll see to it that it becomes a reality,” he said.
Back then, the first phase of National Outdoor Pursuits Academy was given an initial finish date of 2014. However, the council spokesperson told this newspaper that the current target date is now mid 2018.
Loss of land
In 2012, GMIT and Mayo County Council were named as funding partners, while applications were to be made for Fáilte Ireland support and Sports Capital funding.
There has been some question marks over this partnership in recent times, but the council spokesperson insisted that the partnership with GMIT ‘is still in place’.
“The current project (Phase 1) is working for the benefit of GMIT and the town. We would see it benefitting tourism, sport and education. We would see that partnership continuing,” said the spokesperson.
Speaking at the December meeting of the Castlebar Municipal District of Mayo County Council, Cllr Blackie Gavin (FF) said it was ‘very important to keep it [Phase 2] live’.
“It is our goal for Castlebar to be a national sporting hub and the completion of both phases of this project is vital. There is a tartan running track in Claremorris and in Ballina, and Castlebar needs a state-of-the-art running track.
“The ground is there. I am worried that if we don’t keep this on the agenda, we’ll lose the grounds,” he added.
Cllr Frank Durcan (Ind) told the meeting that the ground in question could be sought by the HSE in the event of any expansion of Mayo University Hospital.
At the time of the announcement in 2012, concerns were raised that the land for Phase 2 is prone to flooding.