AMBITIOUS proposals for a permanent ice-rink in Limerick have gained traction this week after council agreed to commission a feasibility study into the plan.
High-level talks have taken place with a view to putting together an application for a huge €60m skating arena, which could have other uses including gigs and conferences.
And after metropolitan councillors gave a study into a project their approval at this month’s meeting following a motion from Cllr Sharon Benson, high level meetings with industry bodies are expected within days.
It comes with a government strategy seeking a national ice rink. Small rinks are typically only set up on a temporary basis usually around Christmas, and Cllr Benson told the meeting Ireland is the just European country with a population above one million not to host a permanent facility.
“Over the past year in particular, winter sports in Ireland has been developing plus progressing at a rapid rate. Women’s ice hockey is one of the fastest growing sports globally. Carrie Jamieson, an UL student from Limerick, has been selected for the Irish ice hockey team and will travel to Kuwait on the November 6 to compete in the inaugural Women’s Development Cup. The fact that we do not have the national ice rink means that our women’s and men’s ice hockey teams will never be able to progress further than the particular Development Cup, ” said Cllr Benson.
She described the prospect of a winter sports arena as being a “no brainer” and act as an “anchor” plus “be a catalyst for further economic development, as well as supporting tourism, culture, and arts. ”
“It would fill the leisure gap that currently exists and bridge the gap between the daytime and night-time economy. It would be an attraction for children, teenagers, adults, students, families, and grandparents. It would create the opportunity for our third level institutions to expand their sports programmes and attract international students. There is also an opportunity to create school programmes. Outside of the obvious health benefits, studies have shown that ice skating is an inclusive activity and has therapeutic benefits for children with autism, such as improving fine motor skills. The possibilities are endless, ” Cllr Benson told the meeting.
She received unanimous support for the motion, with Social Democrats councillor Elisa O’Donovan seconding it.
Green Party councillor Sean Hartigan also spoke in support, saying a “unique attraction to separate us from other cities” is what’s needed.
“This is going to happen some place in Ireland. There will be funding for it, and we need to be the ones to make it happen within Limerick, ” he added.
Cllr Sarah Kiely said: “Limerick is always known as a sporting city, and this would be a very positive move in branching in to another sport. ”
Metropolitan district leader, Cllr Olivia O’Sullivan said building an ice-rink would give Limerick “an edge”, in reference to the city’s marketing slogan of “Limerick, Edge, Embrace”.
Ice hockey centre Carrie says at present, when she needs to train she has to make a long round-trip to Belfast. It’s for this reason, she would love to see an local ice-rink.
“Every Saturday or Sunday depending on when my training is, I need to get up at 6am and drive up to Belfast for a day associated with training. I’d come back as soon as our training is done in 9pm at night. It’d be huge to have an ice industry here, ” she stated.
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