Wednesday 28 October 2009

€460m sport, leisure complex planned

A PLANNING application for what Michael Lowry TD has described as “the most sophisticated and ambitious project that Ireland has ever seen” will be lodged with North Tipperary County Council this morning.

The Independent TD was speaking yesterday in Horse and Jockey at the launch of a €460 million cultural, sporting and leisure development featuring a huge casino and new all-weather racecourse.

The development, called the Tipperary Venue, is proposed for an 800-acre site close to the village of Two-Mile-Borris in the heart of Mr Lowry’s Tipperary North constituency.

The developer, Richard Quirke, did not speak during a one-hour presentation to invited guests. Mr Lowry said he wished “to explain to the media who he is”.

The former Fine Gael minister said: “In these times of economic challenge, our country needs businessmen like Richard Quirke” whom he described as “a local man made good who wanted to give something back”.

He praised his “ambition, vision and innovation” and thanked him for “having the strength and courage to commission this massive development.”

After the event, Mr Quirke, a former garda, told The Irish Times that he had “made a lot of money” from property in Dublin including the sale of the old Carlton cinema. His company, the Dublin Pool and Juke Box Co, runs the Dr Quirkey’s Good Time Emporium arcade on O’Connell Street.

Mr Quirke, who is from Thurles, has bought the land and already spent €30 million on the Tipperary Venue project.

He said he had “considerable monies” and was confident that he could raise financial backing from “foreign investors”. He would not approach Irish banks because “even if they were interested”, he “wouldn’t go near them”.

Mr Lowry said “no State money” would be needed for the project “which will float on its own commercial merit”. He was confident that planning permission would be secured by the end of the year and that construction could start early in 2010.

An estimated 1,000 jobs would be created in building the facility, which would eventually create 2,000 full-time jobs.

Mr Lowry said, however, the project was dependent on the Oireachtas passing proposed new legislation to enable the opening of casinos. The plans had “already been presented to the Taoiseach”, Ministers and other officials and “got a warm response”. He was confident that the necessary legislation would be passed and that there would be no objections to the plans, which have “the full support of the local community”.

Dublin architect Brian O’Connell, who designed the Tipperary Venue, said it would include a 500-bedroom, five-star hotel; a vast 6,000sq m casino; an all-weather racecourse; a greyhound track and a golf course.

It would also include an underground entertainment centre with a retractable roof capable of holding 15,000 people which would be “the rural equivalent of Dublin’s 02 complex”.

Mr O’Connell said Ireland’s gambling laws were “outdated” and that the Department of Justice was broadly in support of the plans” for the casino.

The site, which is located off the M8 Dublin-Cork motorway, would also feature a full-size replica of the White House in Washington as “a memorial to James Hoban”, the 18th-century Irish architect from Co Kilkenny who emigrated to the US and won a competition to design the president’s residence.

The “Tipperary White House” would be used as “a banqueting facility” and also to host wedding receptions. A chapel is to be built in the grounds which will have parking for up to 8,000 cars and “aerial access” via a large heliport.

The existing racecourse at Thurles is to be closed when the new facility is built. The project claims to have the backing of Horse Racing Ireland.

Irish Times

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