The state is to plough another €7m into the long-stalled Cork event centre project to secure its delivery by 2024.
There was a cautious welcome for the move, and for updated delivery timelines, but business leaders said they won’t be celebrating until they see builders on site.
It follows Cabinet’s decision yesterday to sanction another €7m for the project, on top of the €50m already committed, to meet the cost of “construction delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic”.
Just days ahead of the sixth anniversary of the sod-turning on the proposed 6,000-capacity venue on the site of the former Beamish and Crawford brewery, a memo was brought to Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, outlining the progress made on the project in recent months, as well as on the €46m regeneration plans for that area of the city, including the revamp of Bishop Lucey Park and the construction of a new city library. The memo said:
- €5m has already been committed by the successful consortium — BAM and Live Nation — for detailed design work on the event centre, which should be ready by June;
- the city council can now conclude funding the various agreement arrangements;
- and construction could start before the end of this year, and be completed by the end of 2024.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin welcomed the progress on the event centre project.
“This project is potentially of major benefit to the city and entire region, complemented by the additional development of the Grand Parade Quarter,” he said.
“Once completed, the Cork Events Centre and Grand Parade Quarter will be a public space that the entire city and country can be proud of.”
Minister Simon Coveney, who has always championed the event centre project, said the extra state funding was in “recognition of the new realities of the project” in the wake of the pandemic.
The financial return to the state through spending in the city generated by the venue will be multiples of the state investment now, he said.
“It’s been a long wait and many have been frustrated by the delays but there was a small number of people who refused to let it die and we are now seeing the rewards for that stamina,” he said.
But independent Cllr Mick Finn, while welcoming the update, sounded a note of caution.
“The sands have shifted on this project many times over the years, and lots of timelines have been missed. The ultimate barometer of this is when work starts on the ground, and until then, it’s still a waiting game,” he said.
President of the Cork Business Association, Eoin O’Sullivan, also welcomed the news but said hopes have been raised before on the project and dashed.
“We are cautiously optimistic,” he said.
Labour local area rep Peter Horgan also called for the publication of the full business case and documents linked to the state investment.