Talks are under way to finalise payment of €30m in public funding for the proposed Cork event centre. Tánaiste Simon Coveney confirmed that among the issues to be thrashed out is the repayment mechanism for the €9m loan element of the increased funding injection.
“The mechanism for that repayable loan now has to be worked out between Cork City Council, the Department of Arts, and with BAM [developer] to make sure that everybody can move ahead on that basis. Those discussions are under way and we always said that that would be what would happen through January while the planning process takes its course as well.,”
It follows confirmation before Christmas that the State was legally cleared to increase its investment in the development of the proposed 6,000-capacity city centre venue from €20m to €30m.
The Department of Culture said following detailed consideration, the value of public funding in the project could be increased through increased grant aid of €21m and a repayable loan of €9m.
Legal certainty over the value of state funding was one of the main obstacles facing the venue which was costed at €50m when BAM won the tender for the initial €20m in state funding in December 2014.
Former taoiseach Enda Kenny turned the sod on site in February 2016 but since then, a full redesign has been undertaken, a planning application for a larger venue lodged, and costs have soared to close to €79m. Planners have requested further information on the new plans and construction has yet to start.
Mr Coveney said legal teams from the Department of Culture and City Hall are working out how to translate the decision to increase public funding into a schedule of payments.
“Obviously BAM has to be comfortable with that as well, as have Live Nation. They are all stakeholders and they’re all putting a lot of money in,” he said.
He also said he doesn’t believe the ‘repayable loan’ element will pose a difficulty given that the city council will get money back through increased rates payments.
Lord mayor Mick Finn welcomed the talks but urged caution while the remaining issues are resolved.
“We are at the finish line but I would still caution against saying it’s all sorted and ready to go,” he said.
“I understand why people have lost confidence in it. It’s been very frustrating for me and my fellow councillors as well, having originally given the green light for that site, to be still waiting years later.
It’s been extremely frustrating but we are now at the closest point ever of getting an event centre for Cork.
“With the city boundary now extending, Cork city is getting bigger, lots of new businesses are locating here, the population is growing. Now is the exact time for an event centre in Cork,” said Mr Finn.
BAM was asked last week to answer a range of questions about the project but as of yesterday, it had not responded.