There was widespread support expressed for the Canon Hayes Recreation Centre at a very well attended meeting on Monday night.
The meeting had been called by the Centre's Management Committee because of concerns about the lack of funding and the urgent need to upgrade facilities.
In opening the meeting the Chairman Martin Quinn said that the meeting was not to announce the closure of the facility but rather to look for support to prevent that happening in the immediate future.
"The Canon Hayes Recreation Centre has been a vital part of this and the wider community for just over 30 years. It has been a tremendous community resource and a monumental success for the development of sport and recreation in the area. However the burden of responsibility now rests heavily on a few. I am asking if you can share that burden with us so that it no longer becomes a burden but a goal. A goal to secure the future of this facility that was so hard fought for over 30 years ago. Without it we will be returning back here in the not too distant future when the news is certain to be even more bleaker".
It was noted at the meeting that when the Centre was opened in 1987 the Secondary Schools in the town relinquished their entitlement to the provision of duplicate facilities such as providing a Main Hall or a Gym in their own school. However this is no longer the case as similar facilities are now provided, or being provided, in schools in the town to cater for every changing circumstances. Added to that is the fact that the provision of funding through the Sports Capital Programme has allowed for the development of sporting and leisure facilities in towns and villages throughout the country. These along with private developments ensure a vastly different landscape from what it was 30 years ago.
"We need to upgrade our facilities to keep apace with other facilities. We need our Tennis Courts open and active. We need the All-Weather pitches developed to a greater standard to allow for increased usage. We need to upgrade our Gymnasium so that we have the best of equipment and not cordoning off machines and putting buckets out when it rains. This is the reality we face. These are key revenue earners. Without investment in our facilities then we are staring into the abyss" said the Chairman.
There was widespread criticism of the decision by the Sports Capital Department to score an application for funding at zero under level of disadvantaged even though the Centre is in a very disadvantaged area and scores -22.74 (very disadvantaged) in the Pobal index. A full score on this section would have increased their funding allocation substantially.
Seamus Healy, T.D, said that it was a mistake by the Department that should be rectified. Deputy Healy said that he had been in touch with the relevant Minister about it and intended strongly pursuing the matter. He said that he was very aware of the concerns of the committee and would work with his colleagues across party lines to find solutions to the current funding crisis.
Darren McGrath who is a fitness instructor at the Centre said he had grown up with the Centre and that it was always part of his life and that it was important that we focus on the complex as a whole, indoor and outdoor. "The Centre is not just the Gym, which is one of the best that you will find in the area. It is the outdoor such as the Tennis Courts, All-Weather pitches and Running Track also. These are all part of the complex and they must all be upgraded and developed. If we remove any part of the facilities then we are losing the focus of what this complex is all about".
Michael Lowry, T.D, said that it was clear that the Centre needed upgrading. He paid tribute to the Committee and Staff who work tirelessly to keep the Centre going and he pledged his support in seeking funding from the Government. Similar sentiments were expressed by Alan Kelly, T.D., who said that questions needed to be asked of the Minister about the scoring system applied to the Centre's application. "I have many questions about this whole process not just in relation to the Centre but in general. I have raised questions already with the Minister and I am not finished yet" said Deputy Kelly.
The Deputy suggested that the Centre would prioritise the developments with the upgrading of the All-Weather facility being number one priority. The current surface is a hard surface which is best for hockey and the plan is to upgrade to a 4G surface which would be best for football, more realistic and safer for those using it and would have a much greater usage than the current one.
There was widespread support for this proposal and many in the attendance said that it was important that this development be carried out as soon as possible to enable the facility to be open and available to the public and to clubs and groups.
Cllr Martin Browne said that he would be asking the County Council as to why the Centre had not received funding under the Community Facilities Grants Scheme and that he would also raise other issues with the Council about the proposal for a joint membership package between the Complex and the Pool and the condition of the Playground. He was supported in this call by Cllr John Crosse and Cllr Denis Leahy. Cllr Leahy said that it was very important that the Centre receive financial support from the County Council and that he would work with his colleagues in a combined effort to arrange a meeting with the CEO and Council Officials to try and secure funding. This was warmly welcomed by the attendance.
Also offering support on the night was Tipperary Fine Gael Candidate, Garret Ahearn. He said that he was successful in bringing Minister Helen McEntee to the Centre recently to hear some of the concerns and that he was determined to follow through on the issues raised. He said that he was very pleased to be at the meeting to hear directly from the public and that he had already been in contact with Minister Brendan Griffin about some of the issues. He said that he would work with the T.D.'s in trying to secure an immediate meeting with the Minister.
Martin Quinn also called for public support. "I am calling on the public to come on board and give your support. We need your ideas, suggestions, and some of your time. This can not be achieved without you. And crucially we need to make the members draw a success. It is vital to the development of the All-Weather pitch in particular that we have funding of our own to complete this development. Please join us in this effort and make the Draw a complete success".
There were several offers of support from people willing to help and this was welcomed by the Chairman.