It will be a phased project with the first leg focusing on pitch development, including a playing area of international standard, five playing fields in all including an astroturf facility.
If the Point was where many a match was won or lost on the ebb and flow of the tide, the Westport club have adopted the adage that time nor tide waits for no man and they plan to embark on ambitious plan that should be started by early next year, but could take several years before complete..
The project is bold, ambitions and visionary, but then those are the trademarks of a club steeped in history and are highly respected as one of the top junior soccer clubs in Ireland and they have the silverware to prove it.
The Sports Park became the home of Westport United in the ‘50s and while it is regarded one of the finest facilities of it’s time and the spiritual home of Westport United FC, it is now unable to cater for the growing demands on the sport, which is hugely popular amongst both boys and girls in a town that is rapidly expanding.
The club have to depend on the goodwill of local schools and other organisations for their games. But with the new development all ages and all numbers will be catered for with the state-of-the-art playing and training facilities.
Located on the Golf Course Road, the site will include two pitches up to international standards, two smaller playing fields for Mayo league and Connaught standard games and a pitch specifically geared for underage players, an Astroturf facility, a training area and, most importantly, a spanking new clubhouse and stand, along with changing rooms for players, young players and referees and meeting rooms.
The new facilities will benefit an expanding club who are literally on top of their game in terms of achievements on the playing field having won the FAI Junior Cup in 2005, seven Connaught Cups, a plethora of Mayo league and super league titles and have produced a number of players who have distinguished themselves in the famous red and black strip since it was founded 100 years ago, while several players who have represented their county and their country are part of local soccer folklore.
The entire plan was outlined at as very professional presentation by architect, Michael Horan in the Plaza Hotel, Westport, last week where committee members and former players, along with Sheelyn Browne, of Westport House, were in attendance.
Ms. Browne said they were delighted to be able to accommodate the planned facilities and said what impressed her most was the passion and commitment of those who negotiated the deal on behalf of Westport United.
“Ever part of the Westport United venture is right. It’s like finding the missing limb which, when developed, can only be a positive move for the town and the estate.
“We are delighted to have them and see this development as enhancing the excellent facilities already available on the grounds of Westport House,” she said.
Without the cooperation of Westport House the project would never have been feasible and chairman of the Westport United Development Committee, Kevin Cusack, was quick to acknowledge the support from the Altamont family in agreeing suitable terms for the purchase of the 13-acre site as well as the cooperation from the officials and staff of Westport Town Council.
A finance committee is also in place and a special appeal is to go out to the Mayo diaspora to try and lend some financial support while local business and other sources will be tapped into.
Grants from the Irish Sports Council and the FAI will also form part of the initial investment while he club will have to take one bank loan from once approval for the development has been given by the local council who are very much in support of the development, which will be very sympathetic to the area and in particular the historic Westport House and it’s facilities.
While a substantial bank loan will have to be taken out the club are very clear in their ambitions and twill be very much a step-by-step approach to insure the club can handle the financial burden it wil have to undertake.
“Everyone is very excited about this and we can’t wait to start,” said Mr. Cusack.
“Many of us can remember when we had to tog out behind walls at the Point and when we played a visit to Cork some years ago they could not believe a club of our stature had no clubhouse or proper facilities.
“All that is now about to change and we know we have the support of the community of Westport behind us. But we will be looking for money from any source,” he said.
Architect Michael Horan, who presented the plans said the whole project would eventually tie in with new roads that are planned coming from Castelbar to Westport.
He said a lot of joined-up thinking had ensure all aspects of the project were covered.
Mr. Horan said the new routes planned into Westport would also join up with the sports area while walking and cycling lanes planned by the council will also make it easier for children to cycle or walk in safety to the new clubhouse.
Danny McLoughlin, chairman, of the finance committee, said these are exciting times to be involved in soccer in Westport and he thanked everyone in the community for their support.
“We are living in difficult times and many peope are under pressure but I think it shows just what Westport United means to our community that we had already received great support.
“We can’t just thank the people enough for their generosity and kindness.
Everyone who support this development is making a commitment to the future generations of Westport people and that is a wonderful thing for any of us to do.”
Tom Tarmey, chairman of the club, said it was a momentous occasion.
He thanked and all those who had served it down the years and continue to support the club in one way or another
“I want to thank those with the foresight who have produced this ambitious plan and I know a lot of work has been put in by certain individuals but I want in particular to thanks Brian Cusack for his dedication and work,” he said.
The public were invited to view the plans on Friday night and from once Westport Town Council give the all clear work on phase one could star as early as next October.