MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Páirc Uí Chaoimh rises as event centre's future is up in the air

Does Cork now need an event centre in the middle of the city when the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh is such an attractive venue, asks Michael Moynihan.

Last week yours truly opened his Irish Examiner to find Eoin English of this parish, as ever, had his finger on the pulse.

Eoin quoted Cork business consultant Alf Smiddy’s views on the proposed event centre on Leeside: “I think this controversy is going to drag on and drag on, and that the time has come to bite the bullet and start with a clean slate . . . I do think the whole event centre project has spiralled out of control.”

I think Alf may be understating the issue here: the estimated costs of the project have risen from €53m to €65m, first of all.

The Examiner also revealed last Wednesday that the developers, who won a public tender more than two years ago for €20m in State aid for the venue, have requested a further €18m in public funding: they told Cork city councillors in February that an extra €12m in state aid was required, and that consultants had told them a €6m contingency was also required pending further detailed design.

The original tender was won with a design for a 10,600 square metre venue, but when event centre operators Live Nation came on board afterwards, a larger 13,500sq metre venue was required and changes had to be made . ..

Where to begin, eh?

The obvious reason for bringing this up here on the sports pages is that a couple of miles away from this proposed event centre — which still exists only in our imaginations — a newly refurbished Páirc Uí Chaoimh is close to completion. Next month it will host competitive games, after all.

It’s interesting that there was quite the controversy when €30 million in Government funding was proposed in funding for the stadium a couple of years ago. The unhappiness ranged from officials in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport being put out that the GAA sought the funding directly from the Taoiseach instead of them, to local politicians expressing concerns over the scale of the project.

Yet here we are with the stadium almost finished, while two years on we are no closer to this now-mythical event centre being built, even though the developers are looking for a further €18m before they even get started. That’s not a huge amount of money, admittedly. Not when you consider that when Lansdowne Road was redeveloped a few years ago, the Government grant-aided the project to the tune of €190m.

But the fact that the GAA has produced this stadium in the proposed timeframe is thrown into a far sharper context by the messing with the proposed event centre. An obvious question that might be asked, of course, is whether Cork now needs an event centre in the middle of the city when the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh is such an attractive venue on the very banks of the river for conferences and other such gigs, but we’ll come back to that.

Another obvious question is whether the novelty within Cork GAA will be confined to bricks and mortar, as a new venue and headquarters will surely lead to a cultural change within the organisation as a whole.

The expected departure of long-serving county board secretary Frank Murphy in the autumn offers a chance to create an entirely new corporate structure centred on the new stadium, and the smart money is on a structure oriented around a CEO-type figure rather than the old secretary-chairman model.

Obviously, this raises inevitable questions about the identity of such a potentially powerful individual.

Another matter we’ll be coming back to in the coming weeks, don’t worry.

Missing men do Gaelic games no favours

The provincial GAA championship launches are underway, a sure sign the summer is upon us. Before you start salivating at the prospect of all those hurler/footballer interviews, consider this from the last couple of weeks.

The Gaelic footballer addressing a conference of hundreds of people who didn’t want to do any media. The pair of hurlers who wouldn’t speak at a launch for a product they were endorsing. The no-show by a couple of All-Ireland winners at two events they were billed as attending.

We could go on. If you think that’s a hack complaining, you’re right. I’m playing the Mandy Rice-Davies card: he would say that, wouldn’t he?

But you’re the one who’s being short-changed. Don’t complain about all the Lions interviews you’ll be seeing in these pages, for instance. It’s funny that those lads can find the time to help promote their sport for everybody. Elsewhere GAA players are happy to abdicate their adulthood when it suits.

Moral vacuum behind Silk Road

Haven’t read this one yet but it sounds promising — American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road by Nick Bilton, which uncovers the story behind Silk Road, an obscure website where you could buy drugs and other illegal items (“On the black market a person’s kidney could sell for more than $260,000,” Bilton writes, “and a good liver was $150,000.”)

The criminal mastermind of the subtitle is Ross Ulbricht, a brilliant computer nerd who put the site together before eventually being arrested by the FBI. What’s interesting is the extent to which Ulbricht abdicated any moral responsibility in facilitating criminals selling drugs on the site — he collected a commission of just over 6% on sales — by parroting libertarian nonsense, that anything goes in the free market as long as you’re not violent towards anybody.

One of Bilton’s throwaway lines about Ulbricht caught my eye: “… just like other ambitious CEOs who ran other start-ups around San Francisco, he was unable to see how a single decision, made from behind a computer, could trickle down and affect an untold number of real, living human beings.”

This was true as far back as the robber barons of the 19th century, but at least those individuals didn’t claim to be freeing the world to communicate better, like some of the Silicon Valley nerd-deities we’re encouraged to worship.

Bear that in mind when you next hear them cloak their keenness in separating you from your money with a smattering of utopianism.

Hurling facing its own inconvenient truth

I suppose a concept becomes real when it affects you directly.

Thanks, then, to the reader who pointed out to me that a conference at NUIG last week heard that readings taken from the atmosphere in Hawaii recently revealed carbon dioxide levels at their highest levels in three million years.

This is not good news for any number of reasons, one of which is the likely impact on ash production for hurleys.

To which I am sure hurling supporters will respond with: shit just got real.

More on this topic

Cork event centre developer told to  pay or enter agreement with council over €2.3m contributionCork event centre developer told to pay or enter agreement with council over €2.3m contribution

Councillors call for clarity on State funding package as Cork Event Centre gets planning permissionCouncillors call for clarity on State funding package as Cork Event Centre gets planning permission

Enlarged Cork Event Centre gets planning permissionEnlarged Cork Event Centre gets planning permission

Taoiseach confirms funding certainty for Cork event centreTaoiseach confirms funding certainty for Cork event centre


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