Lahinch SeaWorld are seeking between €600,000 and €800,000 in order to finalise construction of a shallow-depth pool for babies and small children as part of a €5.5m development of the facility.
Renovations are currently in the early stages as part of a regeneration project. Former manager of SeaWorld, Cllr. Joe Garrihy (FG) noted that the renovations are as a result of a building that has reached its end of life and that the ongoing renovation is one of the largest community-based regeneration projects undertaken by any local authority in the country.
A budget of €5.5m has been set aside for the project. €1.6m was allocated from the Government as part of a partnership in rural regeneration. Clare County Council committed €450,000 in funds, a further €500,000 was added from the Tipperary Energy Agency and Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland. A large philanthropic donation of €750,000 was received along with a loan of €1m from Clare County Council. A total of €4.4m was accumulated for the project.
Cllr Garrihy explained, “The problem is that some of the funding received is tied specifically to the Sustainable Energy Ireland grant. The project needed to start or risk losing an element of the funding secured. The Board have gone ahead with a phase of works within the remit of the available funding. They had to make decisions around what was essential.
“The baby pool is designed and part of a package of works. Unfortunately, the Board has decided to start while in tandem, we are all going around looking for funds to deliver a fully regenerated swimming and leisure centre with a baby pool. Somewhere between €600,000 and €800,000 is needed for the children’s pool”.
Public concern began to grow following the knowledge that a baby pool was being omitted from the early stages of renovations. Alan Davis, a father of two living in Lahinch and a regular user of the facility, set up a petition in Mid-December so as to, “give a voice to the sentiment within the community and raise awareness around the baby pool and SeaWorld Lahinch.” His concern, like many of the parents and community members is that a generation of children may miss out on swimming up to the age of six or seven. “In a seaside town, that’s a shame,” Alan commented.
Since then, Alan has liaised with Cllr Joe Garrihy and Cllr Shane Talty (FF), forming an understanding and putting locals concerns at ease, for the time being. Alan states: “I understand that the project must run on a budget. Funds are limited and there are time constraints. I am here to let Joe and Shane know that they can pull in the local community. I am also here to make sure the baby pool is prioritised. Once the ribbon is cut, the building team won’t come back on site and people will be scratching their heads wondering how they can’t bring their children up to seven years old swimming”.
Of the project, Cllr Garrihy described it as “a once in a generation opportunity,” but that what is a benefit to the community must be economically sustainable. “This is about engineering everyone in a positive direction. We all want a baby pool at SeaWorld. We are going to work night and day and shake every tree. There are a number of trees we are shaking but it is a work in progress with every and any support agency in looking for more money and getting everyone to understand the objective here, which is to do something of extraordinary value for Lahinch, Clare and the Wild Atlantic Way.”