FUNDING for the long-awaited event centre is now set to be finalised with a new €50 million Government once-off payment package deal agreed.
The Government has agreed to a non-repayable grant to ensure that legal challenges to the procurement process can not stall the project any further.
The State has increased its investment from €20 million to €50 million in the space of five years.
The announcement of a Voluntary Ex-Ante Transparency (VEAT) notice by Cork City Council in the Official Journal of the European Union is significant in that it is likely to mean that the work could begin on the project by developers Bam, who have €35m to add to the Government funding pot, in the not too distant future.
Councillors at City Hall will be briefed about the payment on Monday.
The event centre is estimated to cost in the region of €90 million and will seat 6,000 people and would be operated by Live Nation.
The way could now be cleared for construction but only if there are no further legal issues.
The next month will prove crucial, however, with the possibility of a legal challenge.
The Echo understands that the increased Government package could lead to legal challenges around the procurement process but these would be dealt with swiftly through the High Court.
O’Callaghan Properties, who were the only other bidders for the original tender are unlikely to stake a claim to the project under the new deal.
Councillor Seán Martin (FF) said members of the council received texts about the announcement earlier today.
“I’m delighted it’s happening but my question is why this couldn’t have happened already? We were told a payment of this kind would go against EU rules around procurement.
“The council are putting no more money into it. The Government are upping their investment to get it across the line so I suspect this is it in terms of funding.
“This is four years in the making. Everybody welcomes the payment but the issue all along was that the Government couldn’t commit any more because of regulations.
“My understanding is that this is a once-off payment but if anybody else comes up with an alternative site, they are entitled to put a bid in.
“The change in Government funding allows bidders with a site to say they could accomplish a similiar project but I’m told it would be dealt with within a month.
“This is a take or leave it to Bam and Live Nation. This is the last stab at it and hopefully, it happens” Mr Martin added.
The original tender was awarded to Bam in 2014 with €20 million in State funding attached. The now infamous sod-turning took place in February 2016 but the project has been beset by numerous delays since.
Workers' Party councillor Ted Tynan has heavily criticised the new funding package.
“This is not an investment by the state of €50 million in a public project; instead the €50 million is being handed to Bam and its partners on a plate.
“I utterly condemn this commitment by the government to a company which has been notoriously tardy in its own approach to the event centre and is embroiled in the even more scandalous debacle over the National Children’s Hospital. The sky-rocketing cost of the latter should have rung loud alarm bells with regards to the events centre.
“It must not be forgotten that Cork City Council is the major shareholder in the Cork Opera House and has its own concert hall which will now inevitably lose business to the Event’s Centre, even if their capacity is much smaller. The future of the Opera House must now surely be in question once the private Event’s Centre is operational," Mr Tynan added.