A PROPOSED €8 million extension to the University of Limerick Arena - to include a second swimming pool - remains an ambition in spite of the nosedive in Government finances which have held the project up.
The development was granted planning permission in 2007 and was almost at the tender stage when the deterioration in the public finances meant the pool resources dried up.
The University of Limerick has now applied to Limerick County Council to extend the duration of planning permission, which expires this year.
“We wanted to and we still want to extend the arena. We got some Government funding for the initial work; went in for and got planning permission; had the drawings done up and were ready to go to tender when we ran into the funding issue, said UL’s director of sport and recreation Dave Mahedy.
“We put it on the back burner for a while and in the meantime went ahead with the pitches on the north campus. Now we are ready to resurrect the extension. It would be a fantastic addition and really would put the finishing touches on the arena,” he added.
Mr Mahedy explained that the university had intended to contribute half the capital costs with the remainder coming from government. And with construction costs having come down significantly since the property bubble burst in 2007, Mr Mahedy believes the project could now be “very much back on the radar”.
“For us it is not just an aspiration but nearly a necessity because we are turning down a lot of business. We had a big competition on in the pool only last week which meant nobody else could use it. And with an alternative pool, we could also vie for bigger competitions,” he said.
The plans include a 25-metre training pool which would complement the existing 50-metre pool at the arena. The new pool would also be adaptable for diving exercises and competition, with a moveable floor providing for a depth of 4.3 metres.
Having an alternative to the existing pool would also allow UL Arena accommodate more schools and other groups.
As well as the new pool, there would be additional gyms, changing rooms, cardiovascular and weight training areas and a climbing wall.
Supporting documentation for the original planning application said the extension would create four extra full-time jobs and also provide part-time work for more than a dozen lifeguards.
Lifeguards and other part-time staff are generally drawn from the student population.