Events centre building unlikely to start in 2018

Building works on the stalled Cork events centre are unlikely to start this year, following confirmation that funding talks are continuing and a new planning process will not start for another two months.

While BAM boss Theo Cullinane admitted it will be “tight” to meet timelines outlined in February, he insisted the venue can still be delivered, and the process would have collapsed some time ago had it not been for his own personal commitment.

“I’m not losing confidence in it — we have driven the project,” he said.

All of this process has to follow state-aid rules and all the rules are being complied with — that’s why the thing has taken so long.

He made his comments at the unveiling at Cork Public Museum yesterday of Viking artefacts which were found during archaeological excavations at the former Beamish and Crawford site.

BAM won a competitive tender bid in late 2014 for €20m in state funding for the events centre proposal, which was estimated to cost about €50m. Former taoiseach Enda Kenny turned the sod in February 2016.

When entertainment company Live Nation came on board, a complete redesign was ordered to make the venue financially viable.

Costs soared to between €75m and €80m. Building work has yet to start. The State is still considering a request for an additional €10m in funding. BAM and Live Nation are poised to contribute another €10m.

BAM said in February a funding deal had been agreed “in principal” and it had been hoped construction could start in the third quarter of the year.

Mr Cullinane said yesterday that talks on the funding are continuing and a new planning application for the redesigned venue will not be ready for submission for another six to eight weeks.

Despite the delays, he feels he has nothing to be embarrassed about. “This is a project that Cork has been talking about for about 25 years,” he said.

“There have been about six or seven attempts to deliver this project before we got involved in it. We initiated the project in 2013 and we will stick with the project until we deliver it. And I am absolutely confident that we will deliver it.

“I take personal responsibility in that I initiated the project with the previous city manager but BAM, my company, has stuck with the project.

This project is being driven by BAM but it’s for the people of Cork.

“The economic benefit that will be reaped from this project into the next 25 years will be enormous for Cork.”

Mr Cullinane said the State will not pay more than 50% of the construction cost and will benefit hugely, in economic terms, once it is built.

“Cork people are looking for a world-class events centre, and if we want to build a world-class events centre, we will have to pay for it, and the people of Cork and the people of Ireland will have to pay for it,” he said.

“My objective is to deliver a world-class events centre for Cork, and Live Nation are on board with us with that. But it needs to be funded.”

Mr Cullinane pointed out that BAM has worked on similar venues in major European cities where the construction costs are fully funded by either a local authority or the state, and the venue is then leased to an operator.

“In this case, we are very lucky. We have the best operator in the world, Live Nation, based out of LA,” he said.

They have committed huge sums of money to it, as we have ourselves, and I think the package we have now is a package that Cork will reap the rewards of in the future.

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