THE picture on the facing page shows a dream that the residents of Ballincollig are hoping to turn into a reality.
It is a computerised image of a proposed new community centre for the town, which locals say is crying out for such a building to cope with its population boom .
Residents have grouped together to draw up the plans, which have received a favourable response from Cork County Council.
The council has allocated a site for it on Community Drive Road in Innishmore, just west of the shopping centre, and it would cost around €4million.
Residents hope it will be open by 2021 and are aiming to attain the money through various grants, government funding and donations, while fund-raising themselves.
However, the fact that Ballincollig is about to become part of Cork City Council means they now have to convince that body of the need for such a centre.
One of the locals driving the idea is Gary O’Brien, who is keen to emphasise how much a community centre is required. Ten years ago, he was organising summer camps for youngsters in the town, but he had to end them because there was no suitable facility.
“They could enjoy a two weeks service that was the best summer camp around,” Gary says. “That does not exist in Ballincollig anymore.”
The 28-year-old family support worker is the chairperson of a committee of volunteers who are trying to build the new community centre.
“I’ve always been involved with my community. I like to work with the community to enhance the town and make it better for Ballincollig,” Gary says.
The town has a population of around 19,000, a 25.1% hike in the last ten years, with a significant number of the intake being under the age of 25. One of the two only recreational facilities for those young people, however, is a Community Hall that has served the town’s people for the past 30 years.
Ballincollig Community Hall is an industrial-looking structure with a reasonably small gymnasium inside.
“It doesn’t fit the needs of the town,” says Gary. “ I suppose it did when it was first built, but the population has grown substantially.
“We have the likes of the basketball club, but kids have to go outside of the town to train because the hall that we have isn’t big enough to hold competitions or training.”
On a recent Friday afternoon, I asked a group of teenagers in Ballincollig shopping centre the location of the town’s Community Hall, and the name only rang a bell with one youngster.
Joan McCarthy, a florist in Ballincollig, says she is reluctant to ‘give out’ about her hometown as ‘it is a great place’, but has concerns about youngsters’ lack of access to recreational facilities.
“It would be great if they could build a large community centre for the kids,” she said.
Gary and his group envision a ‘multi-purpose complex’ for the town, with the potential to serve the needs of all residents, regardless of their age and occupation.
“Youth is one area, sports and competition is one, it would be quite a big complex that can hold sporting events, concerts, drama, and be used as a hall for various functions,” he says.
“Then we will have a community space that can be used for organisations who are using pubs and hotel rooms to hold their meetings at the moment.”
Gary says their proposal for a new community centre is based on years of research and analyses of the needs of the town’s residents.
The local group has been working on the plan since 2010, and progressed to the extent that a team of architects have already designed a building for the proposed centre.
“We always had a good relationship with Cork County Council, they asked us to put together a proposal, we did, and they approved it,” Gary says.
The council allocated the 1.6-acre space in Innishmore, and Calum Gallogley, an architect, and his colleagues have drawn up a plan that would keep all the trees on site intact. He says the facility will have partition walls, so they can be easily rearranged depending on the activity at hand. Architects have also considered ample space for a café inside the proposed centre.
“Young people are severely at a loss here, because they don’t have an organisation — like Carrigaline has a fabulous youth organisation and youth facilities,” Gary says. “We were very conscious of that. We will have an IT room planned and art room and a youth café, young people can come in, there would be Xboxes, cooking facilities and even rooms for people who want to practice musical instruments.”
The moving of Ballincollig into the City Council boundary is complicating their efforts.
“We can go with the County Council to them, and say that Ballincollig needs this community centre, I suppose, “Gary says.
Meanwhile, locals are holding fundraisers with proceeds going to the proposed complex. “We are appealing to people to help us either fundraise or to support us so that when we do meet Cork City Council, we can say this is a whole community asking for it,” Gary says.
For more information on the initiative see https://www.facebook.com/Ballincollig-Community-Forum-102501013157191/