Skater shows skills at the opening of the skate park in Portlaoise at the town's Leisure Centre . Picture: Terry Conroy
Portlaoise Leisure Centre must reopen as soon as possible but it shock closure highlights the need to run it and other public amenities including the Portarlington centre and playgrounds by one professional body, Laois Offaly Fianna Fáil TD has demanded.
Sean Fleming reacted to the news that the centre, which is owned by the public, has been forced to shut because a company licenced to run it has gone into out of business with the blame levied at the Covid-19 outbreak.
Deputy Fleming wants it opened again but said the closure reveals "the complete lack of a system" to manage all public leisure and sporting facilities not just in Portlaoise but throughout the county.
"It is important for all who use the facility and the staff that it be reopened as soon as possible. I welcome the statement that Laois County Council will do everything possible to have refurbishments carried out and the facility in Portlaoise ready for use as soon as possible, but this is covering a much bigger underlying issue.
"In recent years I have led the call for a major indoor sporting facility to be provided in Portlaoise by Laois County Council. The town has a population approaching 30,000 people and the county has a population of 85,000 and the existing public facilities are not managed in a co-ordinated manner throughout the county.
"I have also had discussions with senior officials in Laois County Council proposing that the Council must establish one professional management structure for Portlaoise Leisure Centre, Portarlington Leisure Centre, all council playgrounds, pitches and parks in the County and a new indoor sports facility in Portlaoise.
"This overall structure should be looked at strategically and one professional management structure should be in place so that they can be run efficiently and people will have the facility to book times etc. in all of these facilities through one centre in the county.
"I have previously stated that there are totally inadequate playgrounds for children in Portlaoise relative to many of the other areas throughout the county. This needs to be addressed urgently and also there is the need for an indoor sports facility for the people in Portlaoise. It is time we put the people of Portlaoise and Laois first and provide adequate facilities.
"The time for action and a clear cut strategic approach by Laois County Council is long overdue. The people of Laois deserve proper facilities both for sport and leisure not just in Portlaoise but on a coordinated basis throughout the county.
"I am calling on Laois County Council to give this matter immediate urgent priority," concluded the statement.