Work on Abbotstown sports site to begin


WORK IS to begin on the development of the new National Sports Campus at Abbotstown in west Dublin, more than a decade after it was first announced by government.

The National Sports Campus Development Authority is seeking a contractor to demolish the existing buildings on the site, part of which was recently offered by Minister for Sport Leo Varadkar for a new national children’s hospital.

Bids to undertake the work, which involves the demolition of former farm buildings on the 520-acre site, must be lodged by the middle of next month.

The authority has asked prospective contractors to be ready to start work by the end of October.

The new €19 million campus will be a substantially scaled-down version of the so-called Bertie Bowl, the Olympic-standard sports complex championed by former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, which was to be built on the site.

When plans for this complex, which included an 80,000-seat stadium and an aquatic centre, were announced in 2001 it was to cost £550 million, two-thirds of which was to be funded by the exchequer.

Revised proposals for the complex, announced in 2006 by then minister for sport John O’Donoghue, after the construction of the National Aquatic Centre, were to cost €119 million to develop.

Reducing the cost by €100 million has meant the loss of the indoor athletics track and arena, along with the medical facilities and athlete accommodation.

The new plans, announced by Mr Varadkar last March, involve all-weather pitches and a pavilion on grounds close to the National Aquatic Centre.

The campus development authority will endeavour to secure the funding required for the indoor facilities from the private sector.

The development of the new campus, which is due for completion in 2016, is to be funded in partnership with four of the State’s largest sports organisations. The Football Association of Ireland, the Gaelic Athletic Association, the Irish Rugby Football Union and the Irish Hockey Association will each have their own facilities at the campus.

The four organisations will be expected to fund much of the work themselves but each will receive matching funding for the first €500,000 they spend.

Mr Varadkar last May offered to provide land at the sports campus site to facilitate a bid by Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown, which is located nearby, to become the site of the proposed national children’s hospital.

The land needed for the national children’s hospital, understood to be about 40 acres, would leave more than enough room for the sports campus development, the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism has said.