Wicklow GAA’s new Centre of Excellence training facility at Ballinakill , Rathdrum opened in March 2014.
Ballinakill includes state of the art training facilities in a location that is accessible to the whole county and will allow Wicklow county squads to train together in one location for the first time
Ballinakill Centre of Excellence: A Brief History
1 Arising from a County Development Plan in 2007 it was proposed and sanctioned to create a County Centre of Excellence.
The task of completing this task fell to the County Development Committee with the support of the County Chair, Secretary and Treasurer.
After viewing several sites, 58 acres purchased in total, developing 32 acres.
2 August 2008: Full Planning Permission was sought and granted for the centre.
3 Each stage of the project from its very beginning was approved by Croke Park, Leinster Council and most importantly the Clubs and County level.
4 The whole area of the Pitch development was overseen by STRI Consultants, who approved and conducted our tendering system. STRI consultants are extremely experienced people in the area of pitch development, renowned worldwide, one of their main projects being Croke Park. Through the tendering system, Avondale Landscapes have completed the construction of the 4 full size pitches, two Juvenile pitches and a training area, all these areas are completed with a natural grass finish with a varying degree of sand base and sophisticated drainage system. Use of the pitches started in March ’14 with the pitches receiving sanding and fertilizing over the summer.
5 As development continued the development committee again with the support of the Clubs, Province and Croke Park then appointed a Project Engineer to both tender and oversee the construction of the building. Denis Williams Consultant was appointed and working with him to date has proved very beneficial to the county team, both from his experience in this area and also his support towards us, constantly looking for value for money and a professionally finished product. The tendering system for the building was a very intensive procedure, a very time consuming element of work for the Development Committee, all completed in a very confidential manner conscious of the number of contractors wishing to complete the work. LJM Ltd. were appointed as main contractors , with works starting May 2012.
6. Parallel to the building construction, the Development Committee tendered for both Ball Barriers and Goal Posts.
7. An expensive area of development is the completion of flood-lighting, a number of contractors tendered for the works. The Development Committee spent considerable time involved in this area, all club people will appreciate the task of having a proposed plan in place which co-ordinates the activities of all the contractors on site also very conscious of the insurance conditions.
8. As the project moved on, with an approx cost of 5 million euros, all realised the importance of running the centre in businesslike manner, which will give savings to county management by having their own training grounds rather than renting from clubs (Clubs who have been very supportive to the county). Planning for this, during 2013 County Management put in place a Management Committee to operate the centre, these people are organising the operation of all activities, a major task.
9.As mentioned above the cost of the total project is in the region of 5 million euros, the Development Committee and County Management openly acknowledge the great support Wicklow got from both Croke Park and Leinster Council by way of purchase and development grants, which in total are in the region of 1.275 million euros, support which could not have been done without. Also the county management committee fully acknowledge the financial support of the clubs to date, again very valuable assistance.
10. An on-going task of the management committee will be the monitoring of the running costs, whether the heating or indeed the flood lighting, while great detail has been put into the installed systems to get best value for money nevertheless there will be a cost involved to the county.
11. With the support of the main contractor LJM the Development Committee took some elements of the work from the contract and they completed these works through direct labour and also with the valuable help of our FAS staff. Also there was a lot of second fix works completed by ourselves, there is some smaller elements of the project which it is hoped to be completed again through direct labour, these being the erection of a maintenance shed and Hurling wall. The erection of the flood lighting, ball barriers, goal posts and other site works were arranged by the Development Committee. During spring 2013 the first on-going task appeared that of grass cutting and pitch maintenance, problems for the longer days.
12. All of those involved with Development Committees since the start of the project and indeed the Management Committees since 2007 acknowledge the good will towards the project. By and large all Wicklow Gaels realise Wicklow must have a facility to prepare their County Panels and Development Squads as do all other counties. Allowing people to show their support directly for the project County Management have responded to this request by Wicklow Gaels in proposing that an area will be set aside within the building to have name plates erected showing individuals support. The name plate will reflect their support for all time to come, this facility will also be available to the clubs of the county, as a number of clubs have indicated that they wish to have name plate erected to show their clubs support for the project, this support has already started.
13. The Development Committee in thanking all for their support to date, ask for the support to continue, allowing the County to put a professional, high level complex in place as was indicated in the County Development Plan, ratified in 2007. Summer 2015 is the date planned for completion works including improved road works, entrance completed, maintenance shed built it is felt that this schedule will be met with a very small financial borrowing required.
14. From the initial feedback from users and those who visited the centre including both National and Provincial are all very supportive of the finished project, also there seems to be a great buy in by all involved that the centre will be one Wicklow can be proud of. Going back to the County thinking of 2007 when it was proposed for this venture it is hoped that it will serve as a vital link in the development of GAA activities in Wicklow for years to come.