CURLING ice in Ireland took a huge step away form the possible towards the probable this week after an exciting development in the Irish capital.
A new feasibility study has made crystal clear the benefits a National Winter Sports Centre would bring to Ireland.
At a meeting earlier this week in Dublin of the Irish Winter Sports Strategy Coordination Group, where the finding of the study were made public for the first time, members of the Olympic Federation of Ireland were briefed by winter sports representatives, government officials and stakeholders.
The Irish Curling Association were represented by President Eoin McCrossan and Ice in Ireland champion David Whyte. Scott Arnold, the World Curling Federation’s development officer, also attended the meeting in Dublin to push for the establishment of a centre for curling in Ireland.
Other winter sports stating the case for a permanent ice facility in Dublin were ice hockey and luge.
The feasibility study, conducted by CHL consulting, presented a private investor funded model that would deliver a €60million permanent ice-facility for Ireland at little or no cost to the tax-payer.
In a series of presentations to stakeholders including local authorities, Sport Ireland, and the Minister of State for Sport, Jack Chambers, the benefits of the facility were explained.
The benefits included generating an economic impact for Ireland of €111 million and delivering €25.5 million to the exchequer during construction phase, as well as €2.05 million annually once operational. Besides the recreational and sporting benefits, it is also estimated that it would generate an additional €8.9 million annual spend in the Greater Dublin Area.
The proposed facility would house two Olympic sized rinks, with one rink having capacity for 6,000 spectators, providing multi-use options for ice and non-ice entertainment, concerts, ice-hockey matches and events, similar to Belfast’s SSE Arena, filling a significant gap in the Dublin market for a mid-size, multi-purpose venue.
Besides the strong economic case for support of a permanent ice-facility, the sport and social benefits also align very strongly with the recommendations from the government’s National Sports Policy. Ice sports generally offer complete gender balance, as well as a wide age-range of participants through sports like curling, ice skating and ice-hockey. Ice facilities also play a significant role in social integration, particularly at a time when Ireland is welcoming large numbers of people from countries where winter sports are integrated with their own cultural identity.
ICA President Eoin McCrossan said: “It cannot be understated how transformational creating a home for curling in Ireland would be. We believe our sport, with true inter-generational appeal, would be accepted in the hearts and minds of the Irish public given that chance. We are delighted to be working together with our fellow winter sports showing that collaboration and unity can create special results.
“The backing from the World Curling Federation has been key to this point and their guidance support will be essential in any successful facility. The case we are putting forward has been made tangible by the feasibility study. It will provide jobs for Ireland, economic benefit and true social dividend. We are excited to see the next steps in this process ultimately ending with ice in Ireland!”
Scott Arnold, from the WCF added: “The World Curling Federation is happy to support our valued Member, the Irish Curling Association. They have accomplished so much without a dedicated ice rink, and we are encouraged by what we heard during the meetings here in Dublin this week. We have seen exponential growth from other WCF Member Associations upon the completion of their first dedicated ice rinks and would expect nothing less in Ireland.
“The ICA’s dedication is inspirational, and we look forward to following their progress and continuing to help them achieve their goals.”
Peter Sherrard, the CEO of the Olympic Federation of Ireland commented: “The presentations by the Winter Sports and investors, underpinned by CHL’s feasibility study, show that we have a huge opportunity to create a National Winter Sports centre at little or no cost to the tax payer. Hundreds of new jobs will be created, Ireland will benefit from an investment of over €60m and our sports will at last have permanent facilities akin to almost every other country in the EU. “
We look forward to working with Government and local authority stakeholders to capitalise on this inward investment opportunity for our economy and our sports.”