Two years to the day since the sod-turning ceremony, and amid ongoing concerns about chronic delays and soaring costs, the Irish Examiner has learned that a deal has been agreed, in principle, to bridge the funding gap. The breakthrough will see:
- The State pump an extra €10m, on top of the €20m it pledged three years ago, into the construction of the 6,000-capacity venue;
- An announcement, within days, of a state investment package, which could be worth up to €10m, in a range of supporting public infrastructure around the former Beamish and Crawford brewery site;
- A significant increase in private funding from developers BAM and the venue’s proposed operators, Live Nation, which could also be worth another €10m.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney, who has always strongly rejected suggestions that the sod-turning — just days before the 2016 general election — was a political stunt, welcomed the development.
“It has been a frustrating and difficult process,” he said. “But if we didn’t have that sod-turning, we wouldn’t have had the commitment from all sides that was needed to see this through. I promised, last month, that we would find a new approach to get this project over the line. I am very confident, now, that we can provide the certainty that’s needed.”
In their first public statement on the issue in almost 10 months, BAM and Live Nation told the Irish Examiner that they both remain “fully committed” to delivering the venue.
BAM boss Theo Cullinane said he has been engaged in a series of meetings, in recent weeks with Mr Coveney, Live Nation, and Cork City Council, and that significant progress has been made.
“Both BAM and Live Nation have worked together to increase the available funding and reduce costs,” he said. “These initiatives, together with the necessary public funding, make it very likely that the project can now proceed.”
He said all the partners would require formal approval for their funding streams, and the approvals should be in place before the end of this month.
He said a new planning approval would be required for the enlarged venue, and that detailed design, to “construction levels of detail”, was still required. However, he said he was confident that construction would start in the third quarter of the year.
Conor Healy, CEO of Cork Chamber, said he was looking forward to a successful conclusion to the saga, soon.
“Anything less than a positive solution, and agreement reached, would be a major disappointment,” he said.
“All are agreed that the delays have been extremely frustrating, but it is, however, essential that we develop a sustainable and commercially viable events centre and, in that regard, the ongoing commitment of government, Cork City Council, BAM, and Live Nation, to make it happen, should be recognised.
“Once operational, the events centre will bring hugely significant economic and cultural benefits to everyone living in, working in, or visiting Cork.”
Lord Mayor Tony Fitzgerald said last night that he is “optimistic that energies in the negotiations would result in a successful outcome that would benefit the city and the region in the long term”.
“I am aware of ongoing proactive discussions between the government, Live Nation, BAM contractors, and Cork City Council and I await the outcome.
“However, I have discussed and stressed to Minister Coveney that there is an urgent need for these discussions to continue and have a positive momentum.”
However, Independent city councillor, Mick Finn, said that while the news was welcome, public patience in the entire process has almost run out.
“It’s time for BAM and Live Nation to either deliver or wave the white flag,” he said.