Sports Campus set for €40m makeover

THE mothballed National Sports Campus in Abbotstown is set for a badly-needed boost with news that up to €40million is being earmarked for the development in west Dublin.

Plan for a multi-purpose indoor training centre, gymnasium, athlete accommodation as well as offices for sports medicine and sports science may all get the green light.

If they do, work would begin late in 2010.

It is expected that their construction would take three to four years, which would suggest that the facilities would come on stream too late for athletes preparing for the London Olympics in 2012.

However, the news is still welcome, if somewhat belated, especially at a time when every section of society is fighting tooth and nail to avoid being hit further by the upcoming Budget on December 9.

The new indoor centre would cater for up to 27 sports, including basketball and volleyball, while there would also be provision for a boxing ring and other facilities for the country’s most successful Olympic pursuit.

The news comes as a surprise as the government had suspended all funding for the Sports Capital Programme in 2009 but Sports Minister Martin Cullen, has suggested that this freeze may come to an end.

Minister Martin said as much last week in a meeting with various sports officials who have come together under the one umbrella to launch the ‘Why Irish Sport Matters’ campaign ahead of the Budget. Central to that campaign are their efforts to prevent any further cuts in the Irish Sports Council’s funding, which has already dropped by 11% in 2009 and is fighting off proposals to undermine it by another €16m.

It remains to be seen how successful those efforts are, and whether the Sports Campus project is given the thumbs up as concrete decisions still have to be made in a whole host of sectors by the government bean counters.

“We met with the minister last Wednesday,” said Sarah O’Connor chief executive of the Federation of Irish Sports, a body representing 65 national governing bodies.

“There is a feeling there that we are all batting on the same team and he told us that he was very aware of the importance of the funding levels for the Sports Council.

“He also said that he was keen to see Abbotstown go ahead.

“He felt that the Sports Capital Fund would be brought back in some shape or form and that the development in Abbotstown would be under threat if nothing was done on it in the next few years.”

Very little funding will actually be required for the project next year as it will be 2011 before the bulk of the work, and therefore the monies, will be required to start on building the bricks and mortar.

It was back in April of 2008 when then Minister for Sport, the late Seamus Brennan, first announced plans for what was supposed to be Phase One of the Abbotstown project.

These were to cost €119m and were to include 12 full-sized pitches for rugby, soccer and gaelic games and an indoor athletic track as well as the facilities that have been detailed above in the new, curtailed, blueprint.

At present, only the FAI, the Irish Institute for Sport and the National Sports Campus Development Authority are based in Abbotstown.

There is ample room on the near 500-acre site for even more facilities in the future should the need arise.

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