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Velodrome Funding Pledge Gets Dublin Sports Campus Back On Track

Funding for Dublin’s new international-class velodrome has been included in the €165B National Development Plan, which looks to have cleared the way for an €87M shared cycling-badminton facility to be built in Abbotstown.

At stake for the Abbotstown area of Blanchardstown is the potential for a multimillion-euro investment in the area, with urban districts such as Eastlands in Manchester and the London boroughs around Tottenham Hotspur's redeveloped ground — which has seen close to a threefold investment increase to nearly £344M in gross added value annually since its completion — prime examples of the possible economic benefits.

Construction was due to begin last August, but after delays, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media warned that funding for the project needed to be allocated in the NDP before it could get the go-ahead. Now a revised timetable from the government suggests that the facility will start between 2025 and 2026, with the project at the pre-tender approval stage under the government's Infrastructure Guidelines.

A new velodrome is expected to act as catalyst for wider ambitions in Dublin.

Sport Ireland has set out an ambitious vision within its €120M-plus, 480-acre campus master plan that proposes a framework for development of various facilities over the next 15 to 20 years. This includes several major projects, starting with the 160K SF National Velodrome and Badminton Centre.

While the large facilities form the backbone of the master plan, small and medium projects will also meet the more immediate needs of athletes and the community, which will be progressed on a year-by-year basis, Sport Ireland told Bisnow.

Newcastle-based architect FaulknerBrowns won planning approval for the velodrome building in January last year from Fingal County Council, and the practice said the 250-metre cycle track venue will act as a landmark in the campus and will feature curved metal cladding that will surround the arena “in a continuous ribbon reminiscent of cycling components.” 

The venue will also provide 12 badminton courts with 1,000 permanent seats for spectators, plus room for an additional 2,500 temporary seats for nonsporting events, while a café, changing rooms, offices, training facilities and bicycle storage will be created beneath the track level.

Sport Ireland said the National Velodrome and Badminton Centre is its priority project and will be the first major master plan project to be delivered.

“The National Velodrome and Badminton Centre is clearly an exciting prospect for Ireland’s cycling community, but also an opportunity to create somewhere for the local community to be inspired by an elite sporting facility,” FaulknerBrowns partner Niall Durney said. “This is the first major project in Sport Ireland’s vision to transform their campus — as a destination, the velodrome will be a real boost to the local area while helping to bring Irish sport to the next level.”

The news is also a boost to the local area, with the up-for-sale Blanchardstown Centre also nearby, and should act as a welcome stimulus for the local economy.

“Sport’s direct value add to the economy in gross value add terms has grown by over 5% on average over the past couple of decades, underlining not only the strong growth potential from the sector but also how stable sport’s positive economic impact can be,” Cushman & Wakefield Head of Research and Insights Tom McCabe said. “Furthermore, spending on sports activity tends to have a positive multiplier effect in terms of greater employment levels.

“The news that the proposed velodrome at the Sports Ireland Campus has moved a step closer by being included in NDP funding is therefore a positive one for the sporting sector and more broadly for the local economy in Dublin.”

The distinctive facade of the Dublin velodrome

Set within mature parkland, the Velodrome and Badminton Centre will also accommodate other sports. The building’s design has the cycling track at first-floor level, which opens the infield to multiple sports, including boxing, martial arts, fencing and archery. 

“The building and surrounding parkland will bring significant benefits to the community as well and will, with time, become a focus for other cycling disciplines, including a BMX track,” Sport Ireland told Bisnow.

Other projects progressing through the initial concept and toward detailed design include a 180-bed athlete accommodation block, National Governing Bodies of Sport offices, a cricket oval and the redevelopment of Abbotstown House and its gardens. 

There are many examples in the UK of sports being used to regenerate the surrounding area, not least around the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London. Deloitte's 2024 Sports Investment Outlook also outlined the positive impact sports organisations can bring communities.

“Investment in sports facilities, events, and programmes can act as a catalyst for economic and social returns,” Deloitte Sports Business Group Economic Growth and Development Lead Alice John said. “The impact of sport extends far beyond the playing fields, as the benefits include brand profile, infrastructure investment, regenerating communities, education and job creation, as well as health and well-being through the participation in grassroots sport. 

“By leveraging the commercial appeal of sports, local authorities and sports investors can achieve long-term outcomes that benefit local economies and communities.”

Deloitte highlighted the regeneration of the Eastlands area of Manchester as a prime example of how football, and in particular stadiums, can be at the heart of an area’s regeneration.

“Manchester City moved to the Etihad Stadium following the 2002 Commonwealth Games,” the report says. “Since then, the stadium has been at the heart of the area’s regeneration which has seen the development of a collection of new community education and leisure facilities, such as the National Cycling Centre and the Co-Op Live Arena.” 

This month’s news is a welcome boost to the Dublin Sports Campus, which has been the subject of various plans for the best part of 25 years. Adviser PwC carried out a feasibility study for a national stadium on the site as far back as 1999 for what became known as the “Bertie Bowl,” although projected costs constantly increased.

Following the first major build in 2003 of the National Aquatic Arena, Fingal County Council granted planning permission in 2009 for the then-National Sports Campus Development Authority to develop a range of sporting facilities.