By Francis Farragher, Connacht Tribune.
THE Galway Airport site at Carnmore should be developed into a regional sports centre with a multi-purpose state-of-the-art outdoor stadium capable of accommodating 30.000 people its focal point, a West of Ireland TD has said this week,
Roscommon-Galway TD, Michael Fitzmaurice, said that he had already carried out some preparatory work on the project and would be approaching the main sporting bodies in the region over the coming weeks and months.
He said that the 116-acre site provided a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to provide the entire western region with a facility that could accommodate major sporting and entertainment events.
“Its location is absolutely perfect right beside the motor-way network on the east side of the city; the size of the site gives it the space to accommodate a major complex; and it’s owned by our two local authorities – the County Council and the City Council,” Deputy Fitzmaurice told the Connacht Tribune.
He said that with the new Pairc U Chaoimh GAA stadium in Cork qualifying for around €30 million in State funding, there was no good reason why a multi-purpose stadium, conference and indoor centre at the airport site could not qualify for support of a similar magnitude.
“There are a number of vital links that can be made here. The site also has ample capacity to accommodate a major park-and-ride facility and a shuttle bus service to the city that can play a key role in easing traffic congestion.
“As well as that, such a major stadium and sports facility has to have sufficient hotel bed capacity adjacent to it and only Galway city can tick this bock. I can also see a major role in this for our third level institutions – NUI Galway and GMIT,” said Deputy Fitzmaurice.
He said that the key element of the airport site was its location in terms of the entire region and not just in the context of Galway.
“Already, one sporting body has expressed an interest to me in this project and, over the coming weeks, I intent to meet with all the main sporting organisations to get heads together to grasp the potential of such a project,” he said.
The western region, said Deputy Fitzmaurice, was losing out significantly over recent years with big acts not having a suitable venue to perform in – by the time Ed Sheeran concerts takes place next May, it will be almost 10 years since the previous big entertainment event in Galway, Westlife in 2008.
“Everyone is aware of the locational difficulties at Pearse Stadium and maybe it is time that the main sporting organisatons of the region realised that an opportunity is presenting itself here. It’s one that may not come again,” said Deputy Fitzmaurice.
He said that realities had to be faced up to,in relation into the possibility of any re-opening of the airport facility.
“Over the coming months, we will now have a direct motorway link from Tuam to Shannon while Knock Airport is less than an hour away from many locations in Galway. It’s time to move on and to see a new opportunity that’s presenting itself here at the Carnmore site,” said Deputy Fitzmaurice.
Nearly two years ago, a consultancy report on the future of the airport commissioned by Galway County and City Councils recommended a potential dual-purpose role for the site: as a mixed business park and as a film industry hub.
Commercial passenger flights came to a halt at Galway Airport in late 2011, following the withdrawal of the Government’s PSO (Public Service Organisation) annual subvention that, at the time, was worth about €960,000 annually.