Taoiseach urged to give increased backing to Cork Events Centre

Main investor sees revenues plummet 98% due to pandemic
Taoiseach urged to give increased backing to Cork Events Centre
A computer-generated image of the Cork Events Centre.

The Taoiseach has been urged to keep the beleaguered Cork events centre project alive amid fears that fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic now threatens the entire scheme.

It follows confirmation that global entertainment company, Live Nation, which has been lined up to invest in and run the 6,000-capacity venue, has seen its revenues plummet 98% due to the pandemic following the widespread cancellation of live concerts and events around the world.

Live Nation did not respond to repeated queries from the Irish Examiner asking if it was still committed to the long-mooted events centre on the old Beamish & Crawford site. The firm also owns Ticketmaster. 

It said its revenues have fallen 98% to $74m (€63m) in the second quarter of 2020, posting a loss of $588m compared to a profit of $176m in the same period last year.

Live Nation CEO, Michael Rapino, said he expected live events to "return at scale in the summer of 2021". 

The company's "top priority has been strengthening our financial position to ensure that we have the liquidity and flexibility to get through an extended period with no live events," he said.

The American giant, valued at $10.35bn, has seen its share price dive 28% in the past year.

It furloughed more than 2,000 staff as 6,000 shows were cancelled or postponed.

Live Nation is to operate the events centre once it is built by BAM, which in 2014 won the tender overseen by Cork City Council for state aid to deliver it. 

BAM has not responded to requests for comment on the future of the events centre.

Earlier this year, it was confirmed that €50m in funding will now be made available by the Government and council as a non-repayable grant, that €35m will be made available by a special purpose vehicle to be established by BAM with Live Nation, and that once the venue is built, the site and event centre will transfer to the operator.

City councillor Mick Finn called on Taoiseach Micheál Martin to step in.

"I would be asking him to step up and see what we can do to get this on track. This is his backyard. 

"It has to be on the agenda, keep it visible and not put on the back burner again. It is the worst possible time to be talking about the events centre in Cork, given the bottom has fallen out of the entertainment industry’s revenues. The sands are shifting so quickly. 

"Live Nation is a business and it will depend on income in the entertainment industry when there is none forthcoming," he said.

Chief executive of Cork City Council, Ann Doherty, told city councillors last month that she will provide an update on where the project stands when public council meetings resume next month.

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