The sod-turning and contract signing on the €2m Dundalk Sports Centre redevelopment today (Monday) has been described as a landmark occasion for local government in the town. With Dundalk Town Council merging as part of local government reorganisation later this year, it is the last capital project to be carried out by the Town Council but also marks the dawn of a new phase for the Dundalk Sports Centre as a vital amenity in the town.
The Dundalk Sports Centre which opened in 1982 was built to meet the Council’s community objectives and the sports, physical activity and leisure needs of its catchment area in Muirhevnamor and Dundalk more widely. It continues to be the only specialist multi sports indoor community-based facility in Dundalk and Louth. It has one of the largest in-door halls in the county as well as 3 MUGA playing surfaces and a full-sized outdoor playing pitch (FIFA One-Star All Weather Playing Pitch).
The Sports Centre has over the years met the recreational, sports development and competitive needs of the region for a broad range of sports including badminton, basketball, bowls, martial arts, table tennis, five-a-side football, athletics, archery, dance, volleyball and a range of modified games. It also provides the base for a number of sports clubs, youth sports groups, summer activity programmes and inter-school competitions. However, despite a facelift in the mid-1990s, the Centre is no longer capable of meeting the sports needs of the growing Dundalk population nor the social, cultural and leisure objectives of Dundalk Town Council.
Project Manager, Stephen Cull, explains: “In its current condition, the Sports Centre adds nothing to the Muirhevnamor Park environment nor to the regeneration of the Muirhevnamor area. It takes away from the new facilities built in the last few years such as the Clann Naofa Boxing Academy and Muirhevnamor community buildings. The proposed new development will improve the look of the area while at the same time providing a much needed modernisation of the sports facility in the Muirhevnamor area and the wider Dundalk town.” He adds: “Dundalk Town Council decided it was time to redevelop the Sports Centre and provide a facility offering better access for people with disabilities, and engaged with the Housing Agency as the architects for the new design of the building. Due to the tight site constraints, numerous design proposals were looked at with the new design approved last year. The new enhanced Sports Centre will add significantly to the new park in terms of usage, sports impact, positive visual impact and the overall quality of the surroundings while meeting the needs and higher expectations of the 21st Century sport and recreation market.”
Sports Centre Manager, Graham Russell, spoke of the €2m redevelopment. “Where once Dundalk Sports Centre was the only indoor sports facility in the town (the Centre for Sport in Dundalk), the development of facilities by the private sector during the Celtic Tiger years and by Educational bodies and Sports clubs themselves with the assistance of the Sports Capital Programme, the Centre could no longer make any such claims and indeed struggled to meet any of the Local Authorities sporting and recreational objectives. In 2006 we began the process of reinventing the Sports Centre, by investing in staff with Sports related qualifications, to run in-house and outreach programmes, investing in top class facilities including a new sprung floor in the hall in 2007 and a full size floodlit all weather pitch in 2011. The redevelopment of the Sports Centre itself, into a fully accessible modern Sports facility at a cost of over €2 million euro, will go a long way towards putting the facilities in Muirhevnamor back at the Centre of Sports Provision in Dundalk and its environs.”
“The redevelopment of Dundalk Sports Centre is the final piece of the jigsaw in the provision and management of the sporting facilities in Muirhevnamor and for the wider Dundalk area. Dundalk Sports Centre will be a modern state of the art sports facility that will be the benchmark for disabled and special needs sports provision in Ireland. It will also be large enough to comfortably facilitate the increased number of customers currently using the facility following the installation of the all-weather pitch and the future increases that the new facility will attract. The centre staff are already preparing for the centre’s application for the White Flag Award which acknowledges excellence in leisure service provision. The ILAM award structure focuses on three areas (safety, hygiene and customer service) and will be the basis on which the centre operates going forward.”
He also said: “The redevelopment will also ensure that the Sports Centre is a more cost-efficient building, providing better facilities in a centre that is more suitable and attractive to a wider range of people in the community of Dundalk and its environs. From the local authority’s perspective, the running costs will be reduced due to energy saving measures (lighting, solar power, rainwater harvesting, heating systems) incorporated into the design as well as the fact that a new building will require a smaller budget for repairs or replacement than in the current building.
David Storey, Senior Executive Officer, added: “The local authority is committed to the overall aim of the 10-year strategy ‘to make Louth a place where good quality sports/recreational facilities and opportunities will be available across the county and where participation in sports and physical activities by individuals and communities will be encouraged and supported’.