THE University of Limerick plans to ‘leave a legacy’ for future students with a massive new state-of-the-art €7m sports facility.
The Maguires Pitches were launched this Tuesday at UL by Deputy President, Chief Operating Officer, and Registrar, Gerry O’Brien, outgoing UL Director Sport and Recreation Dave Mahedy and UL Student Life President Jack Scanlan.
At 22-acres, the completed and fully operational facility consists of one full-sized natural grass floodlit GAA pitch, plus two full-sized, floodlit synthetic GAA pitches which can also be used as four synthetic soccer pitches with the additional space available.
Back-to-back hurling walls with synthetic grass and a ‘golden mile’ walking and running track with exercise stations completes the development, which also saw the upgrading of the existing outdoor athletics track to international standard.
The largely student-funded project has transformed the site into a truly state of the art facility that was launched this Tuesday.
“This is the perfect exemplar of how a student-led project can yield truly magnificent results,” said Gerry O’Brien, Deputy President of UL.
“At a cost of €7m, our state-of-the-art sports campus has been enhanced further with the completion of this project and reaffirms our status as Ireland’s sporting campus and one of the best in Europe.
“We acknowledge the role of sport in shaping our students and the students are at the centre of this institution’s focus and their campus experience, both inside and outside of the lecture halls, is at the core of our commitment to them at UL,” he added.
The move to develop the old grass pitches emerged from within the student body in 2006 and a committee was established. Pitch development specialist Richard Hayden from STRI Sports Turf Research Institute was commissioned by the UL committee to draft a report on what could be done with the site.
In 2016, more than 70 percent of the student body opted by referendum to support the plans via a levy that would redevelop Maguires Pitches, a new student centre, and climbing wall.
UL Student Life President Jack Scanlan said: “This facility is going to be first and foremost for the students of UL. This project has been student-led from its inception and students are contributing the majority of the funding for the project through the student levy.
“The 2016 campaign was centred on the theme of UL students leaving a legacy. The legacy UL students are going to leave with this amazing facility will extend far beyond the future students of UL and into the local communities who will use the facility for years to come.
“Without the students of UL this facility would not exist in the way we see it today,” the UL Student Life President added.
Gerry O’Brien paid tribute to Dr Eddie Keher, the former All-Star Kilkenny hurler who last week retired from the UL Arena Board after 20 years of service and to Dave Mahedy, who will retire this week after 35 years in his leading role for sport at UL.
“Together with the students who have gone before and the students who will come after, they are all key in how this University and this campus is shaped and continues to move forward,” Mr O’Brien said.
Dave Mahedy said it was an “amazing” facility and to see it launched was the “pinnacle” of his UL career.
“It is something you plan for and it takes years and years. It makes it even more special because of the persistence,” he explained. “This is just fantastic, this finishes off – we are an excellent University as far as sport is concerned, but this just tops it off.
“I am particularly enamoured with the grass pitch, because, now for the first time in our history, we can play Fitzgibbon cup games, Ashbourne, Sigerson – at night, under lights, with a terrace, which was one thing that was missing for years.
“It is great to go out on a high – you always want to go out on top. It is significant in that way, I have had a blast, it has been a great career, but to finish it off with this, which is something we have strived for a number of years, is just the pinnacle,” he added.
Mayor of the City and County of Limerick, Cllr Michael Sheahan, attended the unveiling along with his counterpart Cllr James Collins, Cathaoirleach of the Metropolitan District of Limerick.
Mayor Sheahan said he was “absolutely thrilled to be here because this is another wonderful addition to the fantastic facilities here in the University of Limerick and also in the greater Limerick region.
“I have been watching this very closely, developed from practically a swamp when I started teaching in Monaleen in 1972 to seeing the beautiful situation we have here now. I come here down quite a lot and see what is happening here. Every night of the week somebody is on the pitches here. It is a great addition to the community, to the college and to Limerick,” he added.