Fears that hyper-inflation could further delay long-awaited Cork event centre

As construction costs soar, and detailed design work ongoing, there are new fears that the end-of-the-year construction start date could be missed
Fears that hyper-inflation could further delay long-awaited Cork event centre

The former Beamish & Crawford Brewery site in July 2021 earmarked for the Cork Event Centre.  Construction has yet to start. Picture: Larry Cummins

There are fears that hyper-inflation could further delay the start of construction on the long-stalled Cork event centre.

It follows confirmation that detailed design work on the venue is ongoing, six years on from the sod-turning.

Cork City Council, which is overseeing the tortuous process, said the key project partners, BAM and Live Nation, are still engaged in the final design of the proposed 6,000-capacity venue adding that when that is done, the project will be able to move to the construction phase.

However, Independent Councillor Mick Finn said he has no doubt that costs have soared over recent months.

“It is very frustrating for onlookers. This project has straddled three council terms for me. People need certainty, more facts and clarity about the status of the project,” he said. “I appreciate that it is a complex and expensive process but we have been very patient with it."

The news comes following Tuesday’s budget announcement of a €15m allocation to the project in 2023.

The council confirmed that the allocation is part of the overall €57m in State funding which has been committed to help fund the delivery of the venue on part of the former Beamish and Crawford site on the city’s South Main Street.

It is to be co-financed by a €35m investment by the Live Nation/BAM consortium which won the bid for the State aid following a tender process. But the project has been beset by a raft of planning, funding, design and legal delays over the years before Covid hit, and construction has yet to start.

At the launch of the National Development Plan in Cork last October, Minister for Public Expenditure, Michael McGrath, confirmed that some €50m in State funding for the project was still ring-fenced.

Then last February, the government agreed to plough another €7m into the project to meet the cost of “construction delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic”. At that time, BAM and Live Nation had committed to contribute some €5m towards the detailed design work - which it was hoped would be ready by June.

A memo to government at the time said the council was, at that stage, in a position to conclude funding agreement arrangements, with a view to construction starting before the end of this year, with an expected completion date by the end of 2024.

But as inflation rises and construction costs soar, and with detailed design work ongoing, there are new fears that the end-of-the-year construction start date could be missed. The council declined to answer specific questions about potential new timelines, deadlines or target dates.

At last October's National Development Plan launch in Cork, Minister Michael McGrath also said the State was committed to delivering the venue but was dependent on the project partners.

The NDP describes the proposed venue as “a major contribution to urban regeneration, enhanced amenity and heritage and increased quality of life for Cork”.

It is earmarked for a site in a part of the city which is line for a €46m regeneration, including a revamp of Bishop Lucey Park to create a new public space linking the Grand Parade and South Main Street.

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