THE Rathkeale Sports Complex is set for a new lease of life thanks to a major new project in the town.
The Limerick Youth Service has teamed up with the Rathkeale Community Council to convert the ground floor of the building into a youth cafe, and ‘chill-out’ space.
The project has been made possible with €78,000 funding from Pobail, and it will see the youth centre move out of the Ivy Leaf gift shop in Main Street.
Refurbishment of the centre is expected to get under way in May and ready for use by September.
It will see the out-of-use bottom floor converted into a dedicated cafe space, chill out area, as well as an area where youths can take part in artwork, and personal development work, Catherine Kelly, director of Limerick Youth Service said.
The Community Council – which owns the building – currently has a handball and squash facilities in place on the first floor.
It is expected youths using the facility will be able to avail of these also.
Further to this, it is hoped that the possibility of outdoor activities on lands behind the centre next to Rathkeale’s Augustinian Abbey.
The move will see the youth service move from one room to a facility with six rooms.
Ms Kelly said this new facility will give Limerick Youth Service a facility which “we need and deserve”.
“This is going to be a real solid base for us in Co Limerick. The public recognise Limerick Youth Service as working in the city. But the truth is, Limerick Youth Service has had very solid work going on throughout Co Limerick, even more so than the city. When I started in the late 1980s, most of my work was in the county, stretching from Abbeyfeale to Kilmallock, to the environs of the city,” she said.
A handful of construction jobs are expected to be created as part of the redevelopment process.
Podge Doherty, chairman of Rathkeale Community Council, welcomed the news, and said it is appropriate, given the fact both his group, and the youth service are marking their 40th anniversaries.
“The centre isn’t being utilised as much as we would like it so be,” he pointed out.
For the vast majority of its 40 years in operation, the Limerick Youth Service has enjoyed a presence in Rathkeale.
Ms Kelly paid tribute to the people of the town.
“Rathkeale has fantastic people, fantastic volunteers, and fantastic opportunities as a town and hinterland. So I really see this project as the rebirth of Rathkeale, and a very vibrant hub in West Limerick,” she told the Limerick Leader.