COMMITTEE Pictured are the members of the Westport United Development Committee at the announcement of €2.8 million in funding for phase two at Westport United Park, from left: Claire Reilly, Donal Fahy, Brian Cusack, Colm Keane, Willie Kelly, President; Finian Gardner, Brendan Mc Nally, Michael Horan, Deputy Michael Ring, Peter Flynn, Stephen Duffy, Chairperson; Padraig Burns, Brian Farrell, Project Consultant and Kevin Cusack. Pic: Frank Dolan
Huge crowd attends big announcement in Westport Town Hall Theatre
They crowded through the aisles and the corridors and packed the Town Hall Theatre long before the event was due to start. The people of Westport had been promised big news on Thursday evening and they were determined to hear it.
A short time later, their patience was rewarded when funding of €2.8 million for development works at the home ground of Westport United was announced. It was a red-letter day for the club, the town and the wider community and the feel-good factor was clearly evident as speaker after speaker outlined a bright future for the famous club.
Local TD Michael Ring was the man tasked with telling the people of the biggest ever state funding to a Mayo sporting organisation, even surpassing the €2.2 million approved for the GAA Centre of Excellence at Bekan in recent years.
“This is all about providing opportunities for people. It’s about giving young people the chance to enjoy the opportunities sport brings and I’m delighted to be here to witness such an historic event for this great club and this great community,” said Deputy Ring, a former player for the club.
The funding was secured through the Department of Justice’s Immigrant Investor Programme, which was first introduced by government in 2012 and is similar to schemes across the world.
The scheme allows vetted and approved individuals outside of Europe to make philanthropic donations to a project which is of benefit the public at large.
In recent years, Westport United have developed the first phase of new facilities at United Park on the edge of the town. Two new pitches and a clubhouse have been put in place since the ground was bought in 2012 and last Thursday’s funding announcement will see the completion of phase two over the next three years. Phase One cost over €1.9 million.
The new phase will see the development of an international-size 4G astroturf pitch, two astroturf cages, a third grass pitch and an extension to the clubhouse with a gymnasium and other facilities at a total cost of €3.3 million. This will allow the vast majority of the club’s training and games to be located at United Park.
Over €400,000 will be raised locally and speakers at Thursday night’s gathering acknowledged the huge support already received from the community.
“We’ve had spectacular success with our patron’s scheme over the past few years and now we’re asking people to support us again and get this amazing project over the line,” Development Committee member and Master of Ceremonies Kevin Cusack told the huge crowd.
The former player and official was followed to the stage by some of the people at the heart of the project including club chairman Stephen Duffy, and Peter Flynn the financial director of the project.
“We’ve worked tirelessly on this for a while now and it wasn’t easy keeping it under wraps. So many people have contributed so much of their time to make this announcement possible and they deserve huge credit,” Duffy stated before Flynn explained that the project would be a huge benefit to the entire community.
“This was never just about soccer. This is about our community. We have ‘Football For All’ at United Park every week, we are partnered with Western Care, we work with Mayo College for Further Education, all the local schools, the Covey Wheelers, the Triathlon club and so many more local organisations. The completion of this project will benefit all and we look forward to working towards that over the coming months,” said Flynn.
Brian Farrell, of ARDSA Project Management was on hand to explain his role in the assisting Westport United with accessing the funding for completion of their development.
The Ardagh native said the funding programme was very beneficial to communities across Ireland but difficult to acquire.
“A lot of other clubs and organisations have looked at the programme, and some have been successful, but it’s very difficult. Without the hard and diligent work of the committee in Westport United over the years the boxes would not have been ticked and the application would have failed.”
Westport United hope to begin work on the new phase of their development in the coming weeks with a three-year completion date in mind.
The announcement was streamed live on the Westport Utd Facebook page and can be watched in full here.