Ben Smith, who has been manager of Portlaoise Leisure Centre for the last couple of years and has worked there for the past 13 years, has called on Laois County Council to subsidise the facility and not put it into private management.
It was announced earlier this week that the facility is to close immediately with the loss of 30 jobs.
A protest march is being held on Monday at 10am, beginning at the Leisure Centre and going to Laois County Council. It’s also expected that a further protest will be held at the Council’s full meeting the following Monday.
He said it is “a bad and wrong decision for the wider community” and that “it’s not ok to close a community facility like this”.
“Giving it to a private entity is not the right thing to do with a public building. It won’t be done in the right way and the same opportunity won’t be there for all the people in the community.”
It was revealed this week that the facility would have needed €300,000 to keep going just until Christmas.
The board of directors, who run the facility for Laois County Council, were advised they could have been liable for “reckless trading” had they continued operating it and the company has now been placed into liquidation.
Though accepting that the Leisure Centre has struggled financially because of competition, he said a facility of its nature should be given priority over other council projects.
He says he doesn’t blame the board for doing what they did, but adds “I don’t think enough efforts were made by the council”.
“Why are the Council spending €4.9 million on a new library, €2.2 million on a park in Portarlington, €800,000 on Fitzmaurice Plaza?” he asked.
“There should be a better allocation of funds.”
He also says that the cost of winding up the company, and carrying out the refurbishments will cost the Council almost half of what it would have cost to keep it going.
“It’s widely known that it’s very hard to make money out of Leisure Centres because of the high cost of operating them.
“But many other Leisure Centres around the country are supported and subsidised.”