UCD's €50m sports centre to open with Olympic-sized pool


A NEW €50 million sports and fitness complex, which includes the State’s third Olympic-specification swimming pool, is to open at University College Dublin on Monday.

The UCD Sport Fitness student centre also includes a tournament-grade debating chamber named after the late taoiseach Garret FitzGerald. It is the first time UCD will have a dedicated debating chamber on its Belfield campus, with lecture theatres being used before this.

The 11,000sq m building was developed using funds from student levies and is expected to be mortgage-free in 20 years.

Close to the Belfield campus Clonskeagh gate, the complex, designed by Fitzgerald Kavanagh and Partners, is light-filled and spacious. An “internal street” is lined with seating and screens where students can display digital advertisements instead of traditional posters.

The 10-lane 50-metre pool at the centre of the complex includes adjustable floors to alter depth and a dividing wall for split usage.

For those who are more interested in pleasure than hard work, a sauna, steam room, tepidarium and jacuzzi are included, as well as a shallow pool for toddlers. Changing rooms and shower facilities are to a high standard, with separate areas for students and members of the public.

Overlooking the pool is a 150-piece gym, a spinning room and a dance studio with floating floor.

The complex also includes a 90-seat cinema, student offices, meeting rooms and a 125-seat theatre. A yellow radio studio, perched on three legs, looks like a creature from the War of the Worlds.

The FitzGerald chamber features retractable seating, a standing gallery and acoustics that allow the voice to carry. In dark woods and red, it has a more traditional feel than the rest of the building.

Primary colours dominate throughout and are echoed in an aptly named sculpture outside the new building: Joie de Vivre by Jill Pitko.

The public will pay €800 a year to become members of the complex and UCD staff will pay a discounted annual fee of €450. Lucky UCD students will pay €4 a swim or €100 a year for unlimited pool access.

The centre has its own combined heat and power plant and generates its own electricity, the excess of which is used by the university. It also has a rain water harvesting system and water from a well on campus is used for the pool.

Project co-ordinator Dominic O’Keeffe says he expects the complex to attract 800 public members by the end of the year – it will need approximately 1,200 paying full fees to be viable. He believes there is enough demand in south Dublin to meet and exceed this figure.

“It’s a new age in leisure provision; the standards and spec are the highest in the country,” he says.