A city councillor also claimed last night that a consortium is poised to invest in the development of the ‘rapid-build 5,000-capacity modular facility’ as the second anniversary of the sod turning on the stalled project nears with no sign of construction starting.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney insists that intense efforts are under way to resolve the extra funding impasse blighting the BAM/Live Nation venue earmarked for the former Beamish and Crawford site.
But Fianna Fáil councillor Ken O’Flynn said it’s time to “scrap that pipe dream” after a specialist firm told him it could build a similar venue in Cork, within six weeks, for at least €6.5m.
“I believe that this is a real alternative to what could be a white elephant proposal on South Main St,” Mr O’Flynn said.
“I am now calling on the Tánaiste to immediately consider this alternative and also consider using the central government funding for a new bridge from Tivoli to the docklands to kickstart development in that area.”
Developers BAM won a public tender in December 2014 for €20m in state aid to build an events centre as part of their €160m Brewery Quarter project on South Main St.
Former taoiseach Enda Kenny turned the sod on the site almost two years ago. But following a complete redesign requested by venue operators, Live Nation, costs have soared.
BAM has requested a further €18m from the State but the State says €10m is the maximum additional funding that can be sanctioned before the original tender process is open to legal challenge.
The departments of Arts and Public Expenditure have been considering the city council’s request for an additional €10m since September. Despite signals this weekend that a decision is expected next month, Cllr O’Flynn said people have lost faith and patience in the process.
He contacted Extraspace Solutions, a firm which specialises in the fast-track delivery of bespoke conference centres, and which built the Vital Venue for Derry’s City of Culture events in 2013.
Their Derry venue had a main concert area with 2,500 seats, 500 of them tiered, and could cater for a fully-seated arena, had a 4,000-standing capacity concert space which could be reduced for smaller concerts, and a banquet space for up to 1,000.
It hosted an opening gala televised by BBC which included performances by Phil Coulter, The Undertones, and Snow Patrol, and went on to host the Ulster Orchestra, The Royal Ballet, Primal Scream and Elvis Costello, as well as other conferences and banquets.
Mr O’Flynn asked the company to cost a similar venue in Cork. Its figures show that a 5,000 sq m ‘I-novation’ structure under one roof, to accommodate 4,500-5,000 people, would cost from €6.5m.
The estimate does not include site costs, a sound system, a stage and specialist lighting, and ground conditions could affect the price.
It would take about six weeks to make, deliver and install, with installation taking just two weeks.
Mr O’Flynn, who suggested using Nama-owned docklands sites, insisted that while this option wouldn’t have “all the bells and whistles”, it is a viable alternative.
“I have been working for a year with a group of interested Cork businesspeople who want to see the development of a convention centre that is viable and sustainable. Now there is a real alternative on the table that could be established immediately,” he said.
A decision on the additional funding request for the BAM/Live Nation venue is expected as part of the Government’s Capital Plan review, due to be published next month.