THE man responsible for bringing the Volvo Ocean Race to Galway has urged Limerick to “find a niche” and employ “lateral thinking” to attempt to bring a major international event to the region.
Athlone businessman John Killeen was speaking in the Clarion Hotel last week as a guest of the Limerick Local Heroes group, who said they wanted to share the Cold Chon CEO’s “inspiring story” of “what a group of people could do, against obstacles, to create a huge international event for their city”.
Honoured as a Freeman of Galway in recognition of contribution to his adopted city this summer, a knock-on effect from securing the high profile race for the city not once, but twice, Mr Killeen stressed the large income such events generate - “five to ten times the investment”, a disconnect he said the Government, in particular, needed to “get over” when considering potential funding.
“Such an event creates employment and income for the region and everybody benefitted,” he noted.
The gigantic maritime extravaganza held in Galway over nine days this summer provided a massive economic boost to the region, in the order of €55 million, with one billion people watching across the globe and upwards of 700,000 people visiting the city.
Mr Killeen chairs the Vision Group, established five years ago to redevelop the Galway docklands. The organising committee set up to bring the race to Galway, Lets Do It Global, was run largely on a voluntary basis.
While acknowledging that Limerick was unlikely to host such a massive maritime event, he urged those present, including Mayor of Limerick Cllr Gerry McLoughlin and leading business leaders from around the region, to “find a niche” for the city.
“Limerick could play host to the Rugby World Cup, why not?” he argued, citing one popular example.
“As a community you must bring these things together. Limerick has the stadiums, the facilities, there is no reason why you cannot challenge for these events.”
Pressed on how Limerick could position itself to host such a major international event and protect itself against losing money, the businessman said: “Minimise risk to maximise reward”.
“The event must be professionally run and funded, and if the State steps in and monitors the situation, you need that control,” he said. “Local authorities, businessmen and education facilities should provide support as well as the State. We found that there was a disconnect there and a gap we needed to bridge. You have to have seed money and leadership,” he added.
Limerick company Masterchefs Hospitality secured the contract as the main caterer at the event, and Pat O’Sullivan was present to hear Mr Killeen speak.
Mr Killeen stressed the importance of all strands of the community getting involved in such an event.
“It is about total integration of all elements in the community, not just one sector, all parts of the community got involved,” he said.
Nigel Dugdale of Limerick Local Heroes said it was “great to get some of the leading players in Limerick city coming together to listen to a story of achievement and a story of people working together”.
“That is exactly what Limerick Local Heroes is, trying to get people to start communicating with each other, with a view to thinking outside the box when it comes to what we can achieve in Limerick,” he added.