New life for Port Athletic club

Portarlington’s community spirit is again being called upon to bring to life the Athletic Club’s disused building on Main Street.

Portarlington’s community spirit is again being called upon to bring to life the Athletic Club’s disused building on Main Street.

One of the star projects of RTE’s Dirty Old Towns programme last spring. the two storey building, known as the ‘boxing club’, underwent an astonishing facelift through the hard work of local volunteers, supported by leader Margaret Guijt Lalor, and the programme’s presenter Diarmuid Gavin.

Now a complete restoration is hoped for, including the purchase and ongoing running of the building for the community.

Earlier this month Portarlington Community Development Association held a public meeting to gauge the level of interest in the project. Ms Guijt Lalor was delighted at the number who attended.

“There was a good turnout of groups interested in using it, but the issue is to find parties to take it on. There needs to be a good strong group for that,” she said.

She says the two storey building would be ideal for a dance studio or theatre.

“However it must stand on its own, it is vitally important that it wouldn’t take away from other voluntary buildings like our community centre and GAA hall,” she said.

Groups that have voiced an interest in using the building include the Mens Shed and drama and dance groups.

The PCDA are willing to help out with applying for grants for the building, which has a preservation order. Though the roof and wooden floor upstairs are sound, much work would need to be carried out, including the installation of new windows. A grant from Laois Partnership has already been secured for a feasability study.

The building is owned by the athletics club, overseen by five trustees.

“It would have to be bought from them, which is fair enough, they paid for it originally. It is no use to them now, but they are in dire need for land for track and field sports,” Ms Guijt Lalor explained.

She is hopeful the right people will come forward to take on the project.

“This is a beautiful building, my heart says we must exhaust every avenue to bring it back to life,” she said.