THE €6 million redevelopment of Lahinch Leisure Centre will attract thousands of visitors to this North Clare hotspot and create in the region of 100 jobs.
That was the confident prediction of Rural and Community Minister Heather Humphreys before she officially unveiled the new state-of-the-art leisure facility this week.
Minister Humphreys said the spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean from the centre reminded her of Seamus Haney’s poem Postscript where he urged people to drive out West to the Flaggy Shore.
As part of the government’s Our Rural Future, she outlined old buildings were receiving a new lease of life to regenerate rural towns and villages.
In February 2019, she recalled the centre secured €2.9 million from the Rural Regeneration Development Fund, which was one of the first in the country to receive money from this fund and also received €250,000 from the LEADER programme.
Funding from the RRDF also provided improvement for the public realm, car park, promenade and Lahinch Community Sportsfield.
Considering no fossil fuels are being used to power the centre, she lauded this project as a blueprint for what can be achieved in other locations nationwide.
“I will be encouraging people to come and see what ye have done here in Lahinch. This state-of-the-art facility will attract thousands of tourists to Lahinch, the Wild Atlantic Way as well as local people.
“This once in a generation project will create 100 jobs, which will have a very positive spin off for small businesses in Lahinch.”
She lauded the contribution made by former manager, Councillor Joe Garrihy, Oireachtas members, county councillors, new manager, Eoin Conlan, board of directors and everyone involved in this project.
The facility upgrade was funded by the Department of Community and Rural Development through the RRDF, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), the TOMAR Trust, LEADER, Clare County Council and local fundraising.
The newly redesigned family-friendly, state-of-the-art facility features a 25-metre heated swimming pool, learner pool, sauna, steam room and jacuzzi.
A two-storey fitness gym overlooks the Promenade and Liscannor Bay, with membership drawn from all over North and West Clare already exceeding 1,400 people.
Councillor Tony O’Brien, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, praised the wider community for its “steadfast support” for the development and he expressed his hope that future developments on site will further add to the amenities on offer.
“Today is about the future and a fantastic modern facility that is once again ready to serve another generation of residents and visitors to Lahinch, and the entire North and West Clare area,” he added.
“This newly redesigned facility represents the latest milestone in the story of Lahinch Leisure Centre and the development of sports, recreation and leisure facilities throughout Lahinch and the county as a whole.
“Schools in the region will benefit from this Leisure Centre and children living on the west coast of Clare will be able to learn to swim in this pool.”
Shane Talty, member of the Board of Lahinch Leisure Centre and Cathaoirleach of the West Clare Municipal District, said the upgrade is the first significant development on the site in more than 25 years and marks the beginning of a new phase of life for the historic community facility.
“The first development on this site was in 1963, when a forward thinking, progressive Community Development Association oversaw the provision of a dance hall and outdoor swimming pool,” explained Councillor Talty.
“That centre operated for the next 30 years, until the mid-1990s when a large-scale renovation saw the pool modernised and enclosed and an aquarium developed.”
He continued, “The revamped facility opened in 1996 and served the community up to its closure in December 2019. By then, the structures had become dilapidated, the roof was badly leaking, and the pool plant room had reached end of life.
“Only the Trojan efforts of the then manager Joe Garrihy, his staff, the board chairman Denis Creedon and the members somehow managed to keep the centre open for as long as they had.”
Councillor Talty noted funding from the Rural Regeneration Development Fund helped deliver new on-site public toilets as well as a new Rescue Centre developed by Clare Water Safety in the complex, making it a real hub for the community.
Council Chief Executive, Pat Dowling said the authority is delighted to support the rural community and councillors to bring this project to fruition
Deputy CEO, Noeleen Fitzgerald praised the contribution of the board over the years and outlined the development of various elements of what started out as a €2 million project that trebled to €6 million.
In March 2020, she recalled staff resources were allocated to a steering group consisting of herself
Tony Neville, John O’Malley and Fiona Burke from the council, board representatives Shane Talty, Richard Doyle and Pat Falvey, who were all a pleasure to work with for more than years.
It was constantly supported by Councillor Joe Garrihy, who completed incredible work steering various funding applications.
“What we have here today is an example of team work, collaboration, community commitment and determination.
“This facility shows what can be done when a team come together, with some very determined and experienced people where the answer was always – How can we do this.”
Having thanked the minister and her team for their support, she reminded her there is more opportunity and potential for phase two.
She thanked the Cavanagh family in TOMAR Trust, Tipperary Energy, McKenna Consulting, Jada and council members for their support.