All the dignitaries were present in Laois GAA headquarters last week as the county board officially opened the LOETB Laois GAA Centre of Excellence on Fr Brown avenue in Portlaoise.
GAA President John Horan, Leinster Council Chairman Jim Bolger and Laois GAA chairman Peter O’Neill were on hand to cut the ribbon as well as other GAA officials – including the most recent county chairman Gerry Kavanagh who was heavily involved during his reign.
There was also numerous local politicians and business people, as well as representatives from the GAA clubs of the county in attendance for what was a momentous day.
The €3.5 million project has been in progress and in use on some level for the last number of years but it’s completed now and is the envy of almost every other county in the country, with Laois GAA’s facilities now all on the same site and right beside O’Moore Park.
With all county teams now using the facility, it’s already been credited with an upturn in fortunes for the county’s teams.
Three full-sized, fully-floodlit pitches (two of them fenced in and all identical in size to Croke Park) are at its centre but the new 17,500 square foot building is hugely impressive too.
As well as your normal stuff like four dressing rooms and referee rooms, there’s also a fully-fitted out kitchen downstairs, space to feed 100 people at a time in an adjacent room, meeting rooms upstairs that have views of O’Moore Park and a gym that can be divided and used as a hall (as it was for the official launch for the speeches) and of course a modern gym facility.
If that’s not enough, the building is also the new home of the Laois GAA offices who have moved from their old base in Parkside.
The entire project cost over €3m, €1m of which came from the GAA’s Central Council with €225,000 from the Leinster Council.
A further €370,000 came from the sale of the land in Dooary in Ballyroan that Laois had initially purchased for their Training Centre while they also had €370,000 from the money given to the county from the GAA’s decision to rent out Croke Park to rugby and soccer from 2007 to 2011. Laois had ring-fenced that money for their proposed Training Centre.
Laois have also received funding from the Sports Capital Grants, a €67,000 grant from Laois Partnership towards the gym equipment and a loan of €1million from AIB which will be paid back over 15 years.
The land was originally owned by Portlaoise GAA Club and was sold to a developer during the boom with Portlaoise moving to a new location outside the town in Rathleague.
The proposed development never went ahead though with the land coming back into the hands of Laois GAA via the GAA authorities in Croke Park when it was sold to them by local businessman Michael Killeen.
The development of the Centre of Excellence brings to an end Laois’s quest to have a facility of this nature.
Land was purchased in Ballyroan which was later sold while Laois also came in for land in Galmoy just across the border in Kilkenny. Feasibility studies were done to develop that but its location was an obvious disadvantage.
Our photographer Julie Anne Miller captured a selection of images that show the development in its entirety.