A senior government minister has warned that a €20m taxpayer-funded kickstart package for Cork’s proposed events centre will not be on the table forever.
Simon Coveney issued his strongest statement yet on the stalled project as protracted commercial negotiations continue between BAM contractors and entertainment giant and events centre operators, Live Nation, the two companies which partnered to win the competitive tender for the funding.
There is growing concern over delays advancing the €70m construction project on the former Beamish and Crawford site nine months since the funding deal was agreed.
The Irish Examiner reported last week how Mr Coveney, who has taken a personal interest in getting the project over the line, insisted the centre would be delivered and urged people to be patient to allow the negotiations conclude.
But speaking in Cork over the weekend, he stopped short of setting a deadline for the conclusion of those talks.
“Pressing a nuclear button like that probably isn’t helpful at the moment,” he said.
“Obviously the State has an interest here because we’re contributing a significant amount of money.
“But I have made it very clear to the people involved in the negotiations that the government isn’t going to sit around forever. There are lots of projects in Cork that could do with the kind of money we’ve committed to the events centre.”
Mr Coveney insisted again that the process was not in difficulty and he expressed the hope that the talks would conclude soon and people could see construction activity on site next month.
He described the talks as robust, and said that was always expected given the amount of money involved.
“But this will happen for Cork, don’t be under any doubt about that.”
He also urged the public not to be distracted by the comments of people who he said are not well informed about the background to the commercial talks process.
“Because we haven’t seen a sod being turned on this site people are saying maybe it’s not going to happen. It is going to happen. I’ve been very involved in this project personally.
“We’ve worked hard to make sure the government is making a serious contribution to ensure that this happens. There have been a lot of false dawns in Cork in relation to new events centres over the last 20 years. This isn’t a false dawn. It is going to happen.”
After years of trying to secure an events centre for Cork, a funding deal was finally agreed last December when the Government upped its contribution from €10m to €12m, with Cork City Council providing up to €8m to get the project off the ground.
Since then, the project has cleared complex EU hurdles around state-aid rules but work has yet to start.
The events centre is a key element of BAM and site owners Heineken Ireland’s ambitious €150m Brewery Quarter regeneration of the former Beamish and Crawford site on South Main St.
It is expected to transform commercial activity in the western section of Cork city and could trigger the development of at least one, and possibly two new hotels on nearby sites.
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