The Boss, Lizzo, Peter Kay: Cork could host them all... IF we had that event centre

We need to talk about the long-awaited Cork Events Centre, so says John Dolan
The Boss, Lizzo, Peter Kay: Cork could host them all... IF we had that event centre

Lizzo performed in Dublin recently. But if Cork had its events centre, could she have played here? Picture: Gus Stewart/Redferns)

DO you fancy watching Bruce Springsteen, Lizzo, Duran Duran, Michael Bublé, Ozzy Osbourne, Ludovico Einaudi - the most-streamed classical artist of all time - or actor/comedian Tom Segura on a Cork stage this spring?

Well, sorry, old stock, you’ll have to head the 160 miles up to Dublin.

Or how about Pet Shop Boys, Iron Maiden, Sam Smith, or Peter Gabriel?

Again, Dublin’s your only man.

Are Ed Sheeran or Elton John playing Cork this month? No, but they are playing Dublin though.

Comedian Peter Kay? Ditto.

To find out why this is, just glance at the graphic here.

The big entertainment venues, the ones that can seat several thousand and more, the ones that pay big bucks to the biggest names in showbiz, are all in the capital.

But you can see how the erection and opening of the event centre will change all that at a stroke.

Overnight, promoters will sniff the colour of money of 6,000 people - plus merch’ - and will be lured to the Real Capital.

Imagine rolling in the aisles at Peter Kay just a bus ride away from home. Or having a pint in Oliver Plunkett Street before rocking along to see The Boss in the South Main Street venue, then stopping off for a curry or a nosebag on the way home.

The graphic shows plainly why some of the biggest names around continue to swerve Leeside.

Yes, yes, I know I’ve been putting it off so far for fear of scaring you away - but we do need to talk about that damn event centre...


Way, way back in the mists of time, in February, 2016 - more than seven years ago, or 2,591 days if you prefer - Minister Simon Coveney infamously helped turn the sod on the site of the proposed Event Centre on South Main Street.

The then €150m project would include a venue with 6,000 seats, dwarfing the largest such present venue in Cork, the Opera House, which has fewer than 1,000.

I reckon Mr Coveney has wished many a time since then that he had stayed in bed that day.

The events centre has since become a byword for broken political promises here in Cork - even though the Government can hardly be blamed for the ongoing fiasco, given it’s largely a private project by multi-national construction company BAM.

But collateral damage is still damage.

The will it/won’t it be built soap opera has already outlasted the Red Rock soap opera. Another nine years and it will have outstripped Glenroe - I’m not joking.

Crikey, even World War II only lasted 2,194 days!

Some 18 months after that sod was turned, a satirical account was set up on Twitter called ‘Event Centre Sod’, poking fun at the already lengthy delays. The last tweet was sent from the account in February last year. Clearly, this delay is so far beyond a joke that it has killed satire.

The latest episode of the events centre soap opera, for what it’s worth, came last month when The Echo reported that BAM hoped to begin construction in the second quarter - that’s between April and June - although the City Council were offering up the third quarter.

We won’t hold our breath while this latest cliff-hanger episode plays out...

However, if this timeline does prove correct, then it should mean our new events centre will finally open around the middle of 2025.

And that will be a game-changer for not just our city and county, but the entire Munster region. The prospect of big name shows here will act as a magnet for people across the province, who are as sick as we are at traipsing up and down to Dublin for their kicks, and the knock-on effect wil boost the coffers of Cork hotels, shops, bars and restaurants.

Elton John on stage at Live at the Marquee. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Elton John on stage at Live at the Marquee. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

At this juncture, we should of course point out the sterling work done by the organisers of Live At The Marquee - which has a capacity of 5,000 - and Musgrave Park.

The former has attracted big names down the years such as the aforementioned Elton John and Pet Show Boys, and this year’s roster includes Olly Murs and Rod Stewart.

Musgrave Park has attracted the likes of George Ezra, The 1975, Paolo Nutini, Florence & The Machine, and The Prodigy this year.

But these concerts are necessarily seasonal, and the new indoor events centre will lure the big names all year around and quickly become part of the circuit for touring artists.

Cork also has the Green Glens Arena in Millstreet, which can hold 8,000 and has hosted the likes of Dolly Partoin in times past, but in recent years it has concentrated on equestrian events.

Similarly, any new events centre will only serve to complement the current Cork entertainment venues - there will always be a place in our hearts for the Opera House, Everyman and Cork Arts Theatre, especially for top class drama, and for enabling local talents on and off the stage to learn, hone, and display their craft

A final note on that graphic of Irish entertainment venues.

Just a few weeks ago, the long-planned redevelopment of the National Concert Hall in Dublin was announced, a Government-backed project which will nudge its capacity up to 1,350 - well above our current largest venue.

Although the Cork events centre is largely a private project, the optics here, compared with our continuing frustrations, are not good. What Dublin gets today, Cork gets tomorrow... even then, we’re not holding our breath.

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