Company managing Killarney swimming pool to pull out

 

THE COMPANY managing a €16 million public leisure and swimming pool built largely with public funding in Killarney, Co Kerry, and operating for just over a year, is to pull out next month, leaving the future of the facility uncertain.

Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue had heavily backed the idea during his tenure as minister for arts, sport and tourism and had secured funding for it.

It is understood the 25m pool, which also has a sports hall and international basketball arena on the outskirts of Killarney, is proving too costly.

Membership of the pool has not reached the expected numbers because of the downturn.

The town council had been split on its support for the pool part of the project in a town where there already had been more than a dozen swimming pools, many of which are open to the public.

Reservations had also been expressed that the public facility was built too far from the town centre and was not within easy walking distance from the town schools and the town centre.

However, a majority of councillors persisted with the plan, backed strongly by Mr O’Donoghue.

At one stage he issued a statement to say it was necessary for equality of opportunity in the town, and he reprimanded councillors for opposing the pool.

The project received funding from the National Lottery through the Sports Capital Programme, and the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism swimming pool programme.

It was also aided by the sale of town council land to provide a site for the decentralisation of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism. The Aura Sport and Leisure Management company yesterday confirmed it was to withdraw from management of the Killarney Sport and Leisure Centre at the end of September.

The centre, which has been operating for just over a year, was built by Killarney Town Council and funded through council funds, Government grants and the sale of a public car park in the town as a site for the decentralised department.

Aura, which had been managing the facility on a five-year lease, cited difficult trading conditions and the council’s refusal to underwrite extra losses as its reason for pulling out.

In a statement, Aura said the decision to withdraw was made known to Killarney Town Council in June. “The company will work with the council to provide the best possible chance of a new structure that will enable continuity of service and employment at the centre. The notice period runs to September 22nd,” the statement said.

“In June it advised the council that the Aura shareholders could not commit any further funds beyond the substantial six-figure sum that they had already invested in the Killarney centre,” the statement added.

According to local reports, Aura had sought more than €100,000 from Killarney Town Council.