Maeve Phelan was in top form for Portlaoise Panthers
Portlaoise needs to push its plans for a new indoor sports centre to get a major national level indoor sports facility to attract people into the county from all over Ireland according to a Portlaoise councillor.
A needs analysis survey is currently being circulated to determine if there is a demand for a new indoor sports facility in the town.
Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald tabled a notice of motion at the Portlaoise Municipal District meeting on Wednesday asking the council for an update on the proposed new facility in Portlaoise.
Georgina Ireland in Laois County Council said that ‘if need is clearly identified’ the council will submit an application this month to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport under the Large Scale Capital Infrastructure Fund, aimed at funding a full feasibility study to design stage.
Cllr Fitzgerald said she spoke with the company carrying out the needs analysis with other councillors and made their case clear that the facility is needed in the town. She also said it needs to be pushed to be a bigger facility.
“While it could fulfil a local, this could be a massive national amenity for us in Portlaoise and County Laois where we have Togher at the moment. So while fulfilling the local need, there are possibilities of a venue to bring people into Portlaoise if they get a good facility.
“My own gut feeling on it is that we could also go for the national, we would be attracting big sports weekends in Portlaoise which would be a huge thing. I think it is an opportunity for Portlaoise now to go for it. We are also going to try the regional authority for funds through Europe and whatever we can do to try and get this facility.
“We met the company (carrying out the needs analysis) and they were just telling us what they were doing and they need our response as well and our input and what they are putting forward is a case for this. We all know the needs of Portlaoise and the basketball club in particular. It’s a huge programme and I am delighted that this has started because I believe that it is really badly needed,” she said.
A company has been commissioned by Laois County Council to conduct a ‘Needs Analysis Report’ to identify the demand for a purpose-built sports hall. A survey is being circulated to sports clubs until Friday, April 5.
The survey for clubs/organisations asks questions about facilities that are already available, how many hours a week they are used. It seeks information on the ownership of existing facilities, club satisfaction, problems, limitations and restrictions with existing facilities and the impact of this on the club or/ organisation.
As well as the results of the survey other information being considered to determine if there is a need for the facility in consultation meetings/interviews with local sports clubs/sports providers and sports governing bodies and a review of current available indoor facilities.
Cllr Noel Tuohy supported the idea of the national indoor court.
“We are constantly talking about how Portlaoise is the fastest growing town so they should be looking for a national standard,” he said.
Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley agreed with the need for the new sports centre.
“The Panthers are having huge success and they are great fundraisers themselves. At the moment they are renting properties all over the place so it is vital that we identify a sports centre that can be used by everyone in the community,” she said.
Cllr Pauline Madigan said there is a need for tennis facilities in Portlaoise and Cllr Fitzgerald said this has been passed on to the needs analysis report.
The Portlaoise Panthers basketball club has campaigned for a sports hall because it wants its own base. It rents St Mary's Hall.
Panther's chairperson Shay Dooley said Portlaoise is a central location for attracting sports tournaments and camps.
"Portlaoise Panthers fully supports the call for a new indoor sports venue as we have exceeded the capacity of St Mary’s Hall. We are the largest sports club in Portlaoise without their own facility. The constraints of renting a single court venue is affecting the clubs development particularly for Juvenile players and limit the contribution the Panthers makes to the local community.
"The Panthers are the most successful basketball club in the Midlands region and recognised nationwide as a high performing club. We have won All Ireland Cups and have several players on national teams and with this proven record we are keen to achieve even more in the future ahead.
"We are participating in this feasibility study by Laois County Council and are happy to liaise with anyone to progress this important proposal. We are confident a new indoor sports venue would be successful for both sport and for socio-economic reasons due to the central location of Portlaoise for attracting tournaments and training camps," he said.