City officials defend role as event centre costs soar

City officials have defended their handling of the Cork event centre saga which has been hit by more delays and new fears about soaring costs.

They said their public stewardship of the project earmarked for the former Beamish and Crawford site, poised to receive at least €32m in public funding, has to be robust at all times.

City Hall issued the statement yesterday after it emerged final costings for the proposed 6,000-seat venue, to be included in a request to Government for substantial additional public funding, have not been finalised.

Last week, Arts Minister Heather Humphreys, whose department is overseeing the public funding, said the cost of the venue could top €73m.

Despite winning the tender two years ago for €20m of state aid, developers BAM and its partners, Live Nation, told city councillors in February the costs had risen from €53m to €65m following a protracted internal redesign process which saw the venue’s footprint increase from around 10,000 sq/m to 13,500 sq/m.

BAM said, at the time, it planned to ask Government to increase the state aid from €20m to €32m. It emerged some weeks later BAM also wanted the Government to cover a €6m contingency fund. BAM boss Theo Cullinane said if the additional funding was sanctioned soon, construction could start by September.

However, last week’s statement from Ms Humphreys has cast fresh doubt on that timeline.

City Hall yesterday said Ms Humphreys’ department has sought clarification on information previously submitted by the council in relation to the revised costings.

“Cork City Council staff need to undertake due diligence to respond to a number of these questions as they relate to our assessment of particular figures in the overall cost of the project and also to legal opinions we had received about aspects of the scheme,” a spokesperson said.

“This due diligence cannot be carried out overnight as, if future problems arise with the project, these figures will be cited as Cork City Council’s position.

“The Cork events centre is a major project for the city and a major investment of public funds. Our public stewardship of the project has to be robust at all times.”

It is understood City Hall has now asked engineering and quantity surveying experts to go through the vast amount of documentation so the council can stand over the revised figures before they are submitted to Government. It is hoped the work could be completed before the end of this month and the final costings, along with the funding request, then submitted.

However, a decision from the Department of Arts, which then has to be signed off by the Department of Public Expenditure, could take a few more weeks.

A decision is not expected until Finance Minister Paschal Donohue announces the mid-term review of the Government’s capital spending plan ahead of the budget.



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