'Another compelling reason for visitors to come to our shores'
An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar turned the sod on the site of the new National Surf Centre in Strandhill on Friday shortly after announcing it had secured €615,000 under the new Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.
The investment, along with €1m from Bord Fáilte, will deliver a facility that will serve as a National Centre of Excellence for surfing in Ireland and will be a key focal point for activities on the Wild Atlantic Way.
The provision of this centre will provide local surf schools, individuals and the local surf club with a safe and professional service.
The project will seek to attract new visitors both domestic and overseas to Sligo and to build on its developing reputation for surfing.
"It will act as a focal point for surfing and other outdoor activities on the Wild Atlantic Way.
The project will be situated at the 'Four Winds' site on Strandhill promenade and the 500sq.m centre will provide a modern fit-for-purpose centre with sufficient changing, showering and toilet facilities, board and locker storage, gym, off-beach training facility and multi-function meeting room.
The project will deliver new recreational spaces and utilise a currently unused and vacant site on a key promenade in Sligo.
In addition, an interpretation element will be provided to tell the story and history of surfing at Strandhill and Sligo.
Safety provision for beach users and surfers will also be provided with a surf rescue facility that will monitor the beach usage and support surf schools and the surf club.
The Centre will also serve as an information hub and visitor focal point for the area with information on the wide range of visitor experiences in the region.
This is the first of its kind for Ireland and it will further position Sligo, and indeed Ireland as an international surfing destination.
An Taoiseach welcomed the funding emphasising: "Strandhill is already a very popular destination thanks to its wonderful location, great beaches and of course its secret weapon - the waves that have become so popular with locals and visitors alike.
"So I am delighted to be announcing this significant funding for the development of the new Strandhill Surf Centre, which I have no doubt will make this coastal town even more popular in the years ahead. The Government is committed to investing in tourism and sport all over Ireland. Through Fáilte Ireland we want to push the boundaries of what we can offer the international tourist and visiting sportspeople.
"Ireland's First National Surf Centre in Sligo will be a fantastic addition to Ireland's portfolio of attractions, and will give overseas visitors yet another compelling reason to come to our shores."
Stressing the importance of investing in long term tourism infrastructure, Fáilte Ireland CEO, Paul Kelly explained -
"The development of Ireland's first state of the art National Surf Centre along the Wild Atlantic Way is a new departure for tourism development. This significant funding will enhance the tourism potential of the local area and ensure that we capitalise on the growing reputation Ireland has as a surfing destination.
"Furthermore, investment in world class activity and adventure infrastructure along the Wild Atlantic Way ensures that we can provide an unparalleled visitor experience that will encourage visitors to explore lesser travelled parts of the West Coast, therefore broadening the positive economic impact of tourism beyond the better known tourist hot spots and drive revenue and jobs into the community."
This first National Centre of Excellence will further enhance the appeal of Ireland and the West Coast to overseas markets as an international surfing centre of excellence to all of our main overseas markets.
Welcoming the announcement Sligo County Council Cathaoirleach, Martin Baker said -
"The Centre will be a flagship project on the Wild Atlantic Way, it is excellent news for the local community and the Strandhill Maritime Board chaired by Councillor Declan Bree.
"Funding for the project will see Sligo becoming the surfing capital of the West, and will bring to fruition the foresight and ambition of those who identified Sligo's potential on the Wild Atlantic Way," he added.
Deputy Tony McLoughlin said the funding announcement, coupled with the one earlier for a Yeats Trail, was great news for County Sligo. ay is also welcome.
"In addition to further announcements of successful applications early in the New Year, it is also intended to announce a fresh call for applications under the Fund in mid-2019.
"The Rural Regeneration and Development Fund will help ensure that rural Ireland continues to be a wonderful place in which to live, work and raise children.
"This will be achieved by the boundless energy and enthusiasm that I see every day in our rural communities.