Cinema giants Omniplex plan on opening a state of the art leisure and retail complex at Longford town's vacant shopping centre within the next 18 months
Longford will have a state of the art retail and leisure complex to rival the best in the country on its doorstep within the next 18 months if the new owners of Longford’s vacant shopping centre get their way.
They are the significant and potentially seismic plans senior figures attached to cinema giant Omniplex have in store after its acquisition of the centre was confirmed last week.
The Leader was the first to speak with the entertainment and leisure firm less than 24 hours after news of the takeover was disclosed at a local authority meeting last Wednesday.
During a walkabout of the 80,000 sq ft premises the following afternoon, its director Mark Anderson said the group had set their sights on replicating the successes enjoyed by its 173,000 sq ft Swan Centre in Rathmines.
“In Northern Ireland, Ominplex as a group is mainly leisure but the Swan Shopping Centre in Rathmines does mirror a lot of the similarities to what we plan and hope to achieve here in having a cinema as one of the anchor tenants and having a lot of businesses feeding off the footfall the cinema will generate,” he said.
“In the Swan there are other major anchor tenants, there is a Dunnes Stores, Fallon and Byrne and in the backdrop is a nine screen modern multiplex cinema.”
Mr Anderson, while keen to avoid going into the finer points of the company’s deal with Nama, did admit his firm’s purchase of the building exceeded the centre’s mooted €950,000 price tag.
He also confirmed the group were keen to expand its current six cinema complex by offering a larger, more grandiose movie experience to customers.
“The current cinema has been there since it was built around the turn of the Millenium but I think Longford could do better than a six screen cinema complex and we do have an interest in moving the cinema within the second story of the development,” he said.
“The cinema trades very well where it is so we are not under any time constraints in that regard. We want to do it right rather than do it quickly but do see it as between 12 and 24 months (in terms of being fully functional).”
The Dublin based businessman said Longford County Council’s ongoing regeneration plans to uplift the lower end of town were welcome but were not key to the firm’s decision to secure the centre.
Passing reference too was aired in the direction of Center Parcs’ anticipated arrival and the additional footfall the UK leisure giant is expected to bring in around 18 months time.
The draw of having 150,000 sq ft of car parking space on site allied to Omniplex’s long established presence beside the centre had provided a “perfect fit” for the cinema giant to secure a deal with Nama, he said.
“It will take a lot of investment on our side,” added Mr Anderson.
“The purchase price was only one aspect of it.
“There are a lot of other hurdles to overcome in order to make this a success and that’s going to take a lot of capital investment from the Omniplex Group but it’s a complex that deserves the best chance to succeed.
“I think we are in the prime position to make sure that this complex succeeds.”