Cork’s long-awaited €53m events centre should be built and ready to host its first concerts in just over two years.
The prediction was made as Taoiseach Enda Kenny turned the sod yesterday on the hugely anticipated 6,000-seat venue which could, once fully operational, attract up to 500,000 patrons every year and be worth up to €15m a year to the local economy.
It was one of two major city centre investment projects, worth a combined total of more than €100m, which had sods turned yesterday.
The Taoiseach also visited the site of John Cleary Development’s €50m regeneration of the landmark Capitol cinema site on the Grand Parade.
Both schemes are set to create hundreds of construction jobs and help rejuvenate the city centre.
The events centre builders, BAM, and the facility’s operators, global entertainment giants, Live Nation, confirmed that all outstanding site ownership, funding, and legal issues have been resolved.
They said demolition work will start on the former Beamish and Crawford brewery site within a month, with some archaeological surveys and investigations to follow. They said they aim to have the facility built and open within 26 months.
BAM’s Theo Cullinane hailed the sod-turning ceremony as a great day for the region given that delivering an events centre for Cork has been a strategic vision for almost 30 years.
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He praised everybody involved in the protracted 14-month negotiations since the €20m taxpayer fund that kickstarted the project was sanctioned in December 2014.
“It was a complicated process — this isn’t a traditional construction project. It’s more akin to a PPP project, a 25 or 27-year project,” he said.
“It is a complex funding model, with a range of agreements which needed to be resolved. The question being asked earlier this week was is the contract signed? The answer was there was 25 or 30 contracts to be signed.”
Live Nation’s Mike Adamson said they were hugely excited about delivering a multi-purpose events centre in the city.
He said they expect it will host between 170 and 200 performances a year, including concerts, shows, and conventions, attracting up to 500,000 patrons, providing employment for up to 30 full-time staff, with employment figures reaching up to 300 around large-scale performances.
Live Nation, which also operates the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in Dublin, said the Cork facility would host similar events staged in the capital, including West End musicals and concerts by some of the world’s top artists.
“This will have a great economic impact on Cork, on the hotels particularly. We estimated that benefit to be in the region of €15m per annum,” he said.
“It will be a very unique venue, it will be multi-purpose which means it will be able to change very quickly from one format to the other.”
He said the design team is now finalising a customised design which they hope will allow the people to Cork to take ownership of it.
“We hope to give it identity and character so that the people of Cork can say this is ours, this is not a copy, this is our baby.”
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said after decades of false dawns, he was delighted the project was finally over the line.
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