CANON Hayes Recreation Centre celebrated its 25th Anniversary on Thursday, with a Silver Jubilee ceremony in the Centre, followed by a Civic Reception in the new Civic Offices.
Host Martin Quinn told guests that the idea of a Sports & Leisure Complex for Tipperary Town was first mooted in 1981 when Tipperary Town Athletic Club set about acquiring a piece of land on which to lay a running track. “Without a place of their own to cater for their growing number of members, the Athletic Club set the wheels in motion by petitioning councillors and by convening meetings to elicit support for their plan. This was where the seed was sown for this project and it would not have happened without their enthusiasm and perseverance,” said Mr Quinn.
“The late Archdeacon Ryan was willing to make land available at the rear of St. Michael’s Church and the possibility of obtaining adjoining land surfaced, resulting in about 12 acres of land being made available. It was then that the plans for a complete indoor/outdoor Centre became to come together. To cement it further the VEC donated land, St. Michael’s AFC gave their full co-operation to be relocated to a new pitch adjoining the Complex and negotiations with Tipperary Show Committee resulted in the committee changing the venue for their Annual Show to Limerick Junction.
The initial ad-hoc committee, under the Chairmanship of Mr. John Joe O’Donoghue, met in the UDC Offices and Clubs and organisations were canvassed for support. A public meeting was called on December 17th, 1981 and the project snowballed from there. Following the public meeting a committee under the Chairmanship of Mr. Jim O’Shea, set about putting plans in place for the most ambitious project ever undertaken in the region. The turning of the first sod was performed by Lt. Col. Jim O’Brien, then National President of Muintir na Tire, in July 1984.
“Working in close co-operation with the Management Committee was the Board of Trustees, under the Chairmanship of Mr. Billy Kiely, and the Fund-Raising Committee. Without their support, both financial and otherwise, this ambitious project could never have been brought to fruition. When people originally learned that Tipperary Town was in the process of constructing a very impressive Sports Complex, the news was greeted with a certain amount of scepticism. They did not however appreciate the foresight, vision, enthusiasm and dedication of the Tipperary Community as represented by the work of the Management Committee. Just over three years on from the turning of the first sod Tipperary had a sporting facility which was the envy of many other larger towns and cities.
“The community of Tipperary and communities from father afield must take the greatest credit for their support of this venture. A hundred pounds was an awful lot of money in the 1980’s and yet people dug very deep to support the Members Club Draw which was run to raise the necessary finance.
But then that’s the community spirit that you will find here best epitomised by the late Canon John Hayes, founder of the community development organisation, Muintir na Tíre. This humble man of great foresight and vision initially acquired the lands on which the Centre now stands, for use for ‘recreational purposes’. The Sports Centre is a fitting tribute to him and ensures that his love for young people and care for the community is actively remembered in the parish where he ministered as a curate.
“There should be no doubt in anybody’s mind but that this Sports Centre is one of the most extensive of its kind in the country and it fair to say that with its connection to the adjoining Sean Treacy Memorial Swimming Pool, that Tipperary has a complete Sports Complex that we can all be very proud of.
The effort to provide the Sports Centre was undoubtedly monumental and every credit and more is due to all those who have been involved in the project. In that regard I wish to thank the various Government Departments, South Tipperary County Council and South Tipperary Development Company for providing funding for both capital works and other refurbishment works over the years and I hope that our current application under the Sports Capital Programme for major works on the roof of the Centre will be favorably received.
“The challenge that now faces the community and the management team is every bit as large as it was 25 years ago and that challenge is to ensure that the facilities keep apace with developments in the sporting and leisure field and that the facilities continue to be used to their maximum.
Participation in sport and recreation is vital for building stronger, healthier, happier and safer communities. It provides benefits far beyond the physical, including better social, educational and mental health outcomes. The majority of users of this facility would I am certain state that their involvement has had a positive effect on their sport, sporting community and sporting experience.
“As we celebrate our Silver Jubilee we look to the future with the hope that what has been developed here over the past 25 years will continue to serve the sporting and recreational needs of people of Tipperary and surrounding areas for many more years to come,” concluded Mr Quinn.