Hope of summer reopening for Laois leisure centres

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Hope of summer reopening for Laois leisure centres

Portlaoise Leisure Centre, closed since March 2020

The Laois County Council chief is hopeful of a summer reopening for both Portlaoise and Portarlington public leisure centres.

CEO John Mulholland has expressed hope that they can reopen in summer under shared management, if the public health advice on Covid-19 allows it.

“Any level from 1 to 5 of Covid does not provide any kind of optimism to reopening leisure centres. We are very much at the whim of public health advice and progress with vaccinations and other public health measures. We don’t have wisdom or knowledge in relation to when you could possibly open a leisure centre or swimming pool to large members of the public.

“Prior to Christmas we had intended having a meeting with Portarlington leisure centre board, looking at how we manage both centres together. That didn’t happen because of the sudden escalation of covid outbreaks throughout the country. We still have that in mind. We want to meet face to face to see if we can sort out some possibilities in terms of bringing the management of both centres on.

“It’s very hard to predict. We are trying our best to prepare for that eventuality to when it opens. And hopefully some time towards the middle of this year. There is no effort being spared on our side to make sure we can provide that facility to the public,” Mr Mulholland said at the January council meeting.

He was responding to a question from Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley on when Portlaoise would reopen.

Both centres closed last March with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, but then in June came the news that the board operating the Portlaoise centre on behalf of owners Laois County Council, had folded the business due to lack of funding, with all 30 jobs lost. Public protests followed and Laois County Council promised to reopen the centre following renovations.

Portarlington leisure centre reopened twice during the year under strict guidelines but had to close again when Level 5 began after Christmas.

Portlaoise Leisure Centre renovations have been halted because of Covid-19 level 5 restrictions.

The council has estimated that €770,000 will be spent on capital works on maintaining the two centres up to 2023. The centres are expected to cover ongoing costs themselves with income.

Meanwhile, people who had taken out memberships of Portlaoise, will have them honoured when it reopens, the council’s sports officer has promised.

“Provision has been made in 2021 Estimates to ensure that any outstanding memberships, swimming lessons will be honoured by the new management structure of Portlaoise Leisure Centre when it re-opens,” Anne Marie Maher, Sport & Leisure Officer said this month.

It was in response to a motion by Cllr Noel Touhy asking for reassurance for members, tabled to the January meeting of Portlaoise Municipal District.