By Noel Dundon
The design team of the proposed multifaceted €460 million Tipperary Venue is in the process of restructuring the project so that the main focus will now be on the equestrian element, rather than the ambitious casino which was outlawed by Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
That’s the good news given to the people of Mid Tipperary this week in advance of Christmas, as it emerged that the controversial Tipperary Venue is still very much alive, but with a very different point of focus.
The decision, a few weeks ago by Minister Shatter, resulted in huge levels of anger in the locality as the Tipperary Venue was being viewed as the project to help bolster the local economy and provide jobs across all sectors - up to two thousand jobs in construction and one thousand thereafter, would have been a huge lift to Two-Mile-Borris, Thurles and the greater Mid Tipperary area.
However, the promoters, led by Thurles native Richard Quirke, pledged not to abandon the concept, and they have remained true to their word by stepping back from it, taking a brand new overview, and determining that their project should now hold the equestrian element up as its shining light.
Extensive consultations had taken place with Horse Sport Ireland and Horse Racing Ireland and even before Minister Shatter dropped his “political bombshell” as Deputy Michael Lowry described it, the promoters were moving to provide an enhanced equestrian centre capable of hosting the biggest international events in the world. These plans have progressed and there will be a necessity to seek further planning permission to take account of the upgrade. However, this is not being viewed as a problem at all.
“After the decision by the Government on the whole casino end of things, it was necessary to go back to the drawing board. A casual observer would know that this was a real hammer blow from the casino perspective and this was to have been the driving engine and the driving force behind the project. Two international investors had been lined up by Richard Quirke to play a role in the development, but suddenly we had to go back and revise the project. The casino had left a big hole, not just in the financial end of things, but also in the actual plan as it had been envisaged,” Deputy Michael Lowry told The Tipperary Star.
Work has continued since with the design team and a new layout plan is being worked on with the view to handing this over to a team of financial consultancy advisers who will assess the viability of the revised plans. These “number crunchers” as Deputy Lowry described them, will ultimately determine whether or not the project will succeed.
“Richard Quirke is very determined and committed to the project and is quite anxious that it will get going as soon as possible. You always expect a few setbacks with projects of this nature and size, but nobody anticipated a set back of the magnitude delivered by the Minister. Of course, in time, there will be an application made for the maximum casino licence but it is fair to say that the emphasis has shifted and the whole equestrian area will be the main focus now,” Deputy Lowry said.
The Tipperary Venue promoters had already bought into the blueprint and masterplan of Horse Sport Ireland and are co-operating with them to deliver the kind of facilities which are currently lacking in the country.
What is certain at present is that the golf course and White House elements remain the same; the racetrack and its facilities are being improved significantly; and the equestrian element is being dramatically overhauled. The five-star hotel will go ahead, but the scale will be determined by the viability of the overall project working as a whole.
“The project must be self sustainable and each element has to compliment the other. It is a multifaceted complex and we expect to know early in the new year what the next step will be for the Tipperary Venue,” Deputy Lowry said.