A public lido and emergency services training centre costing at least €25 million is planned by Dublin City Council to replace the axed white-water rafting scheme for George’s Dock.
However, several councillors have suggested the new project, which would see 60 per cent of the site devoted to public pools and 40 per cent for a “swift water training facility” was the white-water project by another name.
Plans for white-water rafting facility — which would have included a water polo and kayaking pool, and a Dublin Fire Brigade water-rescue training facility — were originally presented to councillors in January 2019 at an expected cost of €12 million.
By December of that year, when it was approved by councillors, the cost had risen to €23 million. When the council sought expressions of interest to build the scheme in January 2021, it had hit the €25 million mark.
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Later last year the project was axed following strenuous public opposition, a reversal of support by councillors, and a failure to secure Government funding.
Council chief executive Owen Keegan, who had championed the scheme, at the time said there had been “a considerable amount of negative commentary related to this project,” which had “created a narrative around the project that appears impossible to reverse and that has undermined the planned funding of the project”.
There was. he said, “significant hostility towards the elements of the project that will boost the tourism offer in Dublin and provide a world-class sporting facility and little recognition of the potential of the proposed facility to support a wide range of community development activities”.
Councillors had asked that the site be considered for a public lido, essentially an outdoor pool. The new project would include a 50-metre, five-lane lap pool, sauna and changing areas; a multi use area that in the summer would facilitate children’s pools and a “casual diving pool”, and family pools. In the winter this facility would be used for an ice rink, sports events, Christmas markets, and concerts or exhibitions. The remainder of the space would be the rescue-training facility, used year round.
The new plans were presented to councillors representing the central area of the city on Tuesday, and several noted similarities between the swift-water rescue training facility and the white-water project.
Independent councillor Mannix Flynn said: “I believe this is a whitewater rafting by any other name, and I take my hat off to Owen Keegan.” Fellow Independent Nial Ring said it appeared to be a “reiteration of the previous plan to a certain extent”, while Christy Burke, also Independent, said it appeared to be a “carbon copy of what came before us in relation to white-water rafting”.
Derek Kelly, the manager of the council’s dockland’s office, said the proposal was “not a fait accompli” but also not a white-water facility. “Is this whitewater rafting by stealth? I can assure you that it is not.”
The rescue facility would not be of an adequate size or gradient for white-water rafting, he said.
“You couldn’t use it for any level of competition if someone wanted to throw a raft in it would probably be too narrow. It would hit the walls before it would take off.”
In relation to costs, it was “not going to be cheap” he said. “The overall cost is too early to say, but I wouldn’t anticipate it would be any cheaper than white-water and that was in the €25 million bracket for the overall project, and you’re talking inflation in huge numbers since then.”
The cost of entry would be cheaper however — likely in the €6 to €7 range. “You’re not going to get the €50 which we would have got on white-water.”