The Fianna Fáil approach and that of our partners in government is forward-looking and ambitious, reflecting confidence in the capacity of this country to embark on a major undertaking which will, over time, bring immense benefit to the people and national economy.
I am afraid Deputy Allen does not understand the nature of what is envisaged for Sports Campus Ireland. We are not simply building a football pitch. We are creating a state-of-the-art complex of sports facilities worthy of a successful and progressive modern European nation. In addition, we are putting in place a sports infrastructure which will enable us to bid for, credibly, and host major international sports events which at present are beyond our reach. Deputy Allen of all people knows well that substantial investment in golfing facilities during the past decade has enabled us to become a mecca for golfing tourists and to bid successfully for the Ryder Cup. Sports Campus Ireland will, in time, attract comparable major international events.
It is just over one year since the Taoiseach first announced the Government's decision to develop Sports Campus Ireland at Abbotstown, County Dublin, on a site already in State ownership. This decision, which marked an increasing maturity and professionalism, in the best sense of the word, in Irish sport, reflected the Government's determination to provide the very best of facilities for all levels of participation and competition, from local facilities for community use right up to the world class facility which Sports Campus Ireland, with its 80,000 seat national stadium centrepiece capable of accommodating all field sports, will represent.
Before I outline the progress made during the past 12 months in advancing the project, I will recall those commentators who at the time of the recent Sydney Olympic Games marvelled at the wonderful facilities and structures provided by the Australian authorities to accommodate the games and bemoaned the lack of similar facilities here. Each time the World Cup, world championships and Olympic Games are held, the lack of such facilities here is highlighted and we are castigated by the media and other commentators because of it. Yet, now when we try to proceed to build such facilities, we get a different response. I say to those critics that Sports Campus Ireland will include a stadium of which the people can be proud and which can compete with any stadium worldwide for international events. To those who are less than supportive of the steps the Government is taking to remedy these shortcomings, I say that a great stadium will contribute much to our national prestige and sense of national pride and the existence of a world class stadium accessible to all will act as a catalyst for the development of sport. The concept of Sports Campus Ireland is rooted in the belief that strategic investment made today will realise significant benefits for future generations.
As the House is aware, a development company, Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Limited, CSID, has been established as a special purpose company under the chairmanship of Mr. Paddy Teahon, former Secretary General at the Department of the Taoiseach, and comprises representatives of the sports and business sectors to undertake and oversee the entire project. CSID met for the first time on 29 March last when it was addressed by the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance and me.
The executive services team provides a full range of executive, property, financial, management, planning, environmental and communications services for the company. The team to which the executive services contract was awarded is headed by Magahy and Company Limited, and comprises PricewaterhouseCoopers, Wilson Hartnell Public Relations, McHugh Consultants, Thorbourn Colquhoun, Sheamus Monaghan and Partners and Mr. Ronnie Delaney. The Office of Public Works is providing the project management function for the infrastructure of the campus and stadium and has established a dedicated unit for that purpose.
One of the first tasks of CSID was to examine the feasibility of providing some of the infrastructure for the Special Olympics in 2003. Because of the research already undertaken in the course of the original feasibility study and data compiled on the original campus, CSID asked PricewaterhouseCoopers to undertake a further phase of the feasibility exercise for the sports campus which follows on from and builds on its earlier work. In particular, PricewaterhouseCoopers was asked to consider an aquatic centre incorporating a 50 metre swimming pool, diving pool, two training pools, plus related infrastructure, to be available for the Special Olympics in 2003.
Government approval to proceed with the development of an aquatic and leisure centre at the Sports Campus Ireland site was given in July last and the project went to tender on the basis of a public-private partnership offering a contract for the design, build, operation, maintaining and financing of the centre. CSID is happy to report that the response to the competition is extremely positive. Meanwhile, I understand that an application for planning permission in respect of this element of the project was lodged just before Christmas. In putting the various facilities to public tender, CSID decided to establish the potential for completing as much of the project as possible on a public-private partnership basis, minimising the requirement for State investment.
The tendering process is under way for the other facilities envisaged for the Campus Stadium Ireland site. These include the stadium, the indoor arena, the indoor and outdoor training halls and pitches, the sports science and medical centre, the headquarters for sports organisations, specific sports facilities decided on the advice of the Irish Sports Council and the visitor information centre. The first stage of this process closed earlier this month and proposals are now being assessed with a view to issuing invitations for the second stage as soon as possible.
CSID also held a competition to develop an architectural and environmental framework plan for the entire site of 500 acres. The winning framework plan will suggest a logical and coherent approach to accommodating Sports Campus Ireland, a major parkland amenity to serve the community and general public, a major science/educational project to be selected and complementary commercial and leisure projects with respect to the built and natural heritage that exists at Abbotstown. This competition is being managed by the Royal Association of Architects in Ireland in association with CSID. The winning framework plan will suggest access and transport solutions to the site as well as an overall policy approach to the quality of the architecture that will be expected for this important site. It is intended that the winning team of architects will develop a detailed development control plan for the site and will act as consultants to Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Limited throughout the duration of the project.
Furthermore, in order to ensure high quality architecture in the buildings on site, CSID is establishing, using normal tender procedures, a panel of architects from which the providers of facilities may be required to source their architectural input. Applications under this competition are currently being assessed. Finally, CSID expects to place an advertisement shortly in respect of the commercial elements of the campus. This will relate to the provision of hotels and complementary commercial facilities on the site.
I referred earlier to the feasibility study undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the 1999 research which effectively informed the Government's decision to develop a national stadium and sports campus. That report identified a figure of £281 million, which was made up of £230 million for Stadium Ireland and an initial guideline cost of £51 million for a campus of sporting excellence. As Paddy Teahon has pointed out, the stadium cost has not changed – it remains at £230 million. However, on the basis of further work by PricewaterhouseCoopers and professional estimates for the commercial facilities planned, the cost of the campus, excluding the stadium, is £320 million. This gives a total cost of £550 million for the entire campus and stadium project.
CSID believes that the private sector will be prepared to invest £150 million in the project, mostly for commercial facilities. That is a conservative estimate. When the private donation of £50 million is taken into account, this leaves £350 million to be invested by the Exchequer in Sports Campus Ireland, including Stadium Ireland. Over the past weeks and months I have heard that figure go from £300 million through to £400 million, then £500 million, £600 million, £750 million and £800 million. For some reason the sum of £900 million was left out before the figure of £1 billion was quoted. This week I read that the figure is £1.2 billion.
The cost to the Exchequer is estimated at £350 million. Members will appreciate that we will not be in a position to move from "best estimates" until the tender competitions have been completed, around the middle of this year, and the value of the contracts is known.
I assure the House that the Government and I, as Minister with responsibility since 1 January last for overseeing the Sports Campus Ireland project, will do everything in our power to ensure that stringent control is maintained over the costs of the project. In this regard, particular importance is attached to adherence to the Department of Finance guidelines and procedures for capital projects. Project management structures are already in place in the development company and in the Office of Public Works. These will be reviewed, as necessary, by my Department.
In carrying out its role in ensuring the proper planning and management of the Sports Campus Ireland project, the company will have the support of the project steering group set up last year under the auspices of the Department of the Taoiseach. This group, now chaired by my Department, provides a mechanism for co-ordination between interested Departments and offices, including CSID, and provides oversight of the development of the project.
The decision to proceed with the provision of Sports Campus Ireland is a logical progression from and complements the contribution of this Government to the development of sport over the past three and a half years. It can readily be seen that those countries throughout the world with a well developed, successful and progressive sports sector ensure that a holistic and cohesive approach is in place. Contrast this with what appears to be proposed by the Opposition motion. Deputy Allen is suggesting that the Government should fund the building of three stadia for each of the leading sports and have no national stadium. Surely the Deputy cannot be serious.