Today the Irish Winter Sports Strategy Coordination Group, strengthened their case for the construction of a National Winter Sports Centre in Ireland by publishing  the findings of a feasibility study conducted by CHL consulting and presenting a private investor funded model that would deliver a €60m permanent ice-facility for Ireland at little or no cost to the tax-payer.

In a series of presentations to stakeholders including local authorities, Sport Ireland, and the Minister of State for Sport, Jack Chambers, the benefits of the facility were explained by the Winter Sport National Federations and senior representatives from the World Governing Bodies for Ice Hockey, Curling and Luge, along with private investors willing to develop the facility at little or no cost to the tax-payer.

There is no permanent ice facility in the Republic of Ireland. Our closest neighbours in Great Britain are already reaping the rewards of ice facilities, with 62 permanent rinks. There are also two very successful permanent ice-facilities in Belfast, the Dundonald International Ice Bowl and the SSE Arena.

The benefits of a permanent facility are far reaching. The feasibility study conducted by CHL shows that a National Winter Sports Centre would generate an economic impact for Ireland of €111 million and deliver €25.5 million to the exchequer during construction phase, as well as €2.05 million annually once operational. Besides the recreational and sporting benefits, it is also estimated that it would generate an additional €8.9 million annual spend in the Greater Dublin Area.

The proposed facility would house two Olympic sized rinks, with one rink having capacity for 6,000 spectators, providing multi-use options for ice and non-ice entertainment, concerts, ice-hockey matches and events, similar to Belfast’s SSE Arena, filling a significant gap in the Dublin market for a mid-size, multi-purpose venue.

Besides the strong economic case for support of a permanent ice-facility, the sport and social benefits also align very strongly with the recommendations from the government’s National Sports Policy. Ice sports generally offer complete gender balance, as well as a wide age-range of participants through sports like curling, ice skating and ice-hockey. Ice facilities also play a significant role in social integration, particularly at a time when Ireland is welcoming large numbers of people from countries where winter sports are integrated with their own cultural identity.

Speaking at the launch of the feasibility study, CEO of the Olympic Federation of Ireland Peter Sherrard said,

“The presentations by the Winter Sports and investors, underpinned by CHL’s feasibility study, show that we have a huge opportunity to create a National Winter Sports centre at little or no cost to the tax payer. Hundreds of new jobs will be created, Ireland will benefit from an investment of over €60m and our sports will at last have permanent facilities akin to almost every other country in the EU. We look forward to working with Government and local authority stakeholders to capitalise on this inward investment opportunity for our economy and our sports.”

Visiting Dublin to present the case along with Ireland’s Winter Sport Federations, International Ice Hockey (IIHF) President, Luc Tardif added,

“Ice facilities have the potential to be economically lucrative. They have the ability to function within multi-sport facilities that can subsequently attract not just ice hockey fans or ice skating fans in general, but fans of other sports, music concerts, expositions, and congresses. We have seen this work effectively with venue development and management not just in our top ice-hockey playing nations, but within developing ice-hockey nations also. With good will and all stakeholders working together, this could be a huge success for Ireland.”

World Curling’s Head of Development, Scott Arnold, was also in Dublin, lending his support to the project,

The World Curling Federation is happy to support our valued Member, the Irish Curling Association. They have accomplished so much without a dedicated ice rink, and we are encouraged by what we heard during the meetings here in Dublin this week. We have seen exponential growth from other WCF Member Associations upon the completion of their first dedicated ice rinks and would expect nothing less in Ireland. The ICA’s dedication is inspirational, and we look forward to following their progress and continuing to help them achieve their goals.”

Markus Aschauer, Chairman of the Track Construction Commission at the International Luge Federation said,

“The International Luge Federation is delighted to be supporting this project which we believe will help grow our sport in Ireland and attract future athletes into winter sports. There is no better way to introduce people to luge than by giving them the opportunity to slide on ice and experience our sport first-hand. The start track will also provide the Irish luge team with a fantastic training facility that is local and reduces the need to travel abroad.”

Speaking from Dublin, Viesturs Koziols, Chairman of Facilities with IIHF added,

“A new multifunctional arena in Ireland will be used by tens of thousands of people, and will become a landmark and signature for a modern Dublin City. The social aspect of it cannot be underestimated, due to the fact that investment in projects like this is much cheaper than investments in hospitals and healthcare. Arenas are the safest place for kids to be and gives them a great sporting outlet where they can learn teamwork and enjoy the related social, health and sporting benefits.”

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