Longford Athletics Club have just taken a step closer to their dream of owning their own state-of-the-art training facility

A state-of-the-art facility for the wider sporting community in Co Longford

Paul Grealy

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Paul Grealy

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Longford AC Juvenile PRO

Longford Athletics Club have just taken a step closer to their dream of owning their own state-of-the-art training facility in Longford town with the recent granting of planning permission for the facility to be built on the grounds at St Mel’s College
But it’s taken a big effort to get this far!

In December 2018, at their AGM, Longford AC formally started their efforts to have their own facility.

There had been strong efforts prior to this with hard work put in, but success evaded them.

This time a Training Facilities Task Force was established with the sole objective of securing a dedicated athletics training facility.

Funding was the first objective.

Longford Community Resources Ltd had requested sports clubs to apply for LEADER funding.

In January 2019 the club submitted an Expression of Interest to LCRL and in May were informed they were eligible to apply for LEADER funding of up to €300,000 but subject to review by LCRL.

FUNDRAISING
Behind the scenes fund-raising activities were being debated and planned.The goal was to raise €100,000.

The club decided to hold a raffle with a first prize of €20,000.

In June 2019 the campaign began. Books of tickets were printed and subsequently dispersed to members young and old.
Doors were knocked on, and were knocked on again and again. Stalls were set up at the Longford Shopping Centre and Super Valu.

By March 2020 all tickets were sold and the club had over €100,000 in the bank. The draw took place in the Longford Arms Hotel, and young Luke Wilson of Ballinalee was the lucky first prize winner.

SECURING A LOCATION
All this time the biggest problem facing the club was that it didn’t own its own land - this was a prerequisite to securing the LEADER funding.

The race was on to locate a piece of ground on which the facility could be built. Maps were scanned, and many tours of the town perimeter took place - looking for a suitable location.

After many false starts, a meeting was secured with Longford Diocesan Trust to discuss the possibility of building the facility at St Mel’s College.

It was agreed that the building would be of mutual benefit to the club and St Mel’s College, and indeed the wider community.
The club had now secured their premises.

“As Principal of St Mel's College,” said Declan Rowley, “I am delighted to have been in a position to help the Longford Athletic Club procure a new home for athletics in Longford.

“I am well aware of all the great work that the club are doing for all age groups in the county and we in St Mel's are delighted to be able to accommodate this project and I see mutual benefits for us all as the facility will further add to what we have to offer on the campus of St Mel's College.

“I hope that everyone in the county gets behind the club and helps bring the project to fruition over the coming months.”

DESIGNING A FACILITY
Now that the club had ground to build on, the next step was to start work on the design of the facility.

Members of the club task force visited a number of indoor tracks around the country in their efforts to come up with a suitable specification for the facility.

Facilities Task Force committee chairman John Fitzpatrick says:
“We hope to build a 60 x 20m indoor facility, with an 8 lane running strip, a long jump / triple jump pit, a high jump area, pole vault area, and a high-performance strength and condition area to include a testing facility.

“Athletes and coaches concerned with elite performance will be able to establish baselines and be able to monitor progression which will help develop strong athletic profiles (whatever their sport).

“Along with dressing rooms, a meeting room and reception area, this will be a top class facility the envy of clubs nationally.”

PLANNING PERMISSION
Will Design, fronted by Architectural Design Consultant Brendan Quaine were engaged to help in the design process, and to draw up plans to submit to Longford County Council.

McKenna Construction Consultants, fronted by Quantity Surveyor Damien McKenna provided costs associated with the build and club member Gavin McHugh, Managing Director of Downes Associates, provided some personal guidance and consultancy services to the club during this element.

In February a planning submission was prepared and submitted to Longford County Council. However COVID19 got in the way, and it was only this month September that the club got news that planning permission had been approved.

LEADER APPLICATION
All this time (since May 2019) the club’s LEADER funding application was being worked on. Information was being collected, paperwork compiled, spreadsheets pondered over, and forms were being filled in - and there were many forms!

Finally in March 2020 the club submitted the funding application to LCRL/LCDC. In April the club received word that its application was successful and that they had been awarded €500k subject to particular criteria.

GOING TO TENDER
The club recently went to tender for building of the facility.

Tenders were evaluated in recent months and a preferred contractor was selected.

Contracts are due to be signed soon.

WHAT’S NEXT?
Well the club’s young athletes are back training in The Mall, and the seniors are out training too.

A number of our members are continuing to shine spectacularly on the national stage.

Additional funds will be needed to secure the development of this top-class facility, so fund-raising and sourcing will continue.

The final word goes to club Chairperson Donal Mulligan: “This facility will be a state-of-the-art facility for Longford town.

“It has the potential to attract athletes and sports people from around the country.
“The facility is not for Longford Athletics Club alone. It’s for the wider sporting community in County Longford.
“It’s for anyone interested in fitness, mental health, active age groups, schools, etc. It’s for everyone and we really appreciate your support to date.”