Ó Catháin's indoor arena of dreams warms up a bitterly frosty morning
What they have now have, and what Irish athletics has been waiting on for over 30 years, is a proper, permanent, world-class indoor track, capable of staging international events, complete with over-hanging warm-up strip and permanent seating for 2,000 spectators.
Naturally, the track was what mattered most – and lacks for nothing, the Mondo surface exactly the same as used by all major international tracks (including the London Olympic Stadium), and built on boards, too, across a vast steel frame, which offers the best chances of clocking fast times. Athlone student John Travers ran a 1,500m time trial here on Tuesday night, clocking 3:42.53 and declared it “very, very fast”.
“Our design team went around Europe,” says Ó Catháin, “looking at other indoor venues, and we picked the best aspects of those, really, so that we’d have an indoor track that would meet the needs, with the proper legacy to go with it.
“Some of the wood used in the centre area is actually recycled from the ExCel in London, and while we looked at different colours, settled for the blue, with the traditional red in all non-competitive areas, matching the seating plan with it.
“The glass face on the back stretch helps too, brings in the light, and looks out at the playing fields. That actually adds to the atmosphere too. There’s a great spacious feel.
“And of course it’s fantastic for everyone involved in the sport; fills an important role. We already have clubs and teams booked in, but we’re open to everyone, from 8 in the morning to 11 at night.
“If any athlete in the country wants to come down here, use the track, they can, paying just €8. Athlone students pay just €5.”
It’s a track that is music to all our ears. “It’s the sound, and the bounce, of the wooden track I love,” says Coghlan. “And feeling the vibration, like playing a very nice guitar.
“The response from the track is always better on wood, than concrete. The crowd will hear the beat too, off the track, and that inspires the crowd too.
“I’d envy a young athlete that gets to run around here. It really is that good.”
Athlone stages it first test event this Sunday, with the AI Indoor Games, and a likely sell out for the National Championships, on February 16-17th.
Athlone Indoor Arena:
9,715 m2 – floor area size
850 tonnes – structural steel
50,000 – concrete blocks
2,000 – spectators
€10.2 million – The cost