LAHINCH was glistening in the sunshine on Monday last with the official opening of a €6m revamp of Lahinch Leisure Centre.

Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys (FG) officially unveiled the state of the art facility which features a 25-metre heated swimming pool, learner pool, sauna, steam room and jacuzzi.

A two-storey fitness gym overlooks the Promenade and Liscannor Bay, with membership drawn from all over North and West Clare already exceeding 1,400 people. The facility upgrade is funded by the Department of Community & Rural Development through the RRDF, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), the TOMAR Trust, LEADER, Clare County Council and local fundraising.

Speaking at the opening, Minister Humphreys lauded the “spectacular view of the Atlantic” which reminded her of Seamus Heaney’s poem ‘Postscript’. She said the Leisure Centre would “deliver so many benefits”, attract thousands of tourists and lead to the creation of many jobs. The Monaghan woman also opened the Lahinch Water Safety Training & Rescue Centre and was presented with a framed photograph of Lahinch by Rose Kenny.

“Today is about the future and a fantastic modern facility that is once again ready to serve another generation of residents and visitors to Lahinch, and the entire North and West Clare area,” Cllr Tony O’Brien (FF), Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council stated. He noted the “vital role” played by sport and exercise in communities.

Lahinch Leisure Centre General Manager, Eoin Conlan shows off the facility to Cllr Tony O’Brien & Minister for Rural & Community Development, Heather Humphreys. Photograph: Eamon Ward

Shane Talty, Member of the Board of Lahinch Leisure Centre and Cathaoirleach of the West Clare Municipal District said the upgrade is the first significant development on the site in more than 25 years and marks the beginning of a new phase of life for the historic community facility. “The first development on this site was in 1963, when a forward thinking, progressive Community Development Association oversaw the provision of a dance hall and outdoor swimming pool. That centre operated for the next 30 years, until the mid-1990s when a large-scale renovation saw the pool modernised and enclosed and an aquarium developed”.

He continued, “The revamped facility opened in 1996 by then Minister Enda Kenny and served the community up to its closure in December 2019. By then, the structures had become dilapidated, the roof was badly leaking, and the pool plant room had reached end of life. Only the trojan efforts of the then Manager Joe Garrihy, his staff, the Board Chair Denis Creedon and the members somehow managed to keep the centre open for as long as they had”.

Talty stated, “Today is about the future, it is a fantastic facility which will serve another generation. It has a two storey gym with the best equipment in the county and boasts the most panoramic views of any leisure centre”. The postmaster was confident the gym membership would keep the Leisure Centre on “a strong financial footing”.

Head of Finance with Clare County Council, Noeleen Fitzgerald spoke of the “long association with this facility” and the local authority. She recounted that the initial thinking was for a €2m project. She chaired the steering group set up by Council Chief Executive, Pat Dowling, “it was a big ask to go threefold with plans for this building”.

Lahinch Leisure Centre Manager Eoin Conlan outlined, “From infants taking their first steps into the water to the swimming club, schools, adult classes and people recovering from injury or surgery, the pool is open to everyone. Our fitness gym is home to the finest equipment in Clare and boasts the most panoramic views of any Leisure Centre in the country. We look forward to encouraging and advocating people to reach their Health and fitness goals for many years to come”. The facility was used by the U19 Irish Lifesaving Squad ahead of the European Championships.

Through funding support from the SEAI, the facility is a Nearly Zero-Energy Building (NZEB) delivering approximately €100,000 savings in annual energy costs. Additional funding from LEADER programme has delivered energy upgrade works to further heighten the environmental sustainability of the centre.

JADA Construction Ltd & Kelly RAC were the main contractors for the development while the design team comprised McKenna Consulting Engineers, Tom McNamara & Partners and Tipperary Energy Agency.

Speaking at the opening of the Lahinch Water Safety Training & Rescue Centre, Minister Humphreys offered her sympathies to the family and friends of Patrick McCarthy who died following a tragic drowning in Fanore this month. She also acknowledged the efforts of the late Tomsie O’Sullivan to water safety training in the locality.

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