The management of the UCD Sports Centre have reported an increase in operating revenue for the financial year ending 30th September, despite a fall in the subsidy paid to it by the University authorities to fund its activities.
According to Superintendant of Sports Facilities, Kevin Barnes, the Centre faced a funding cut from the University of 12 per cent for the current financial year, which ends tomorrow, with a further 8 per cent cut expected for the coming twelve months, in line with uniform expenditure cuts throughout the University.
Barnes attributed the increase in revenue to the increased public use of the Sports Centre’s climbing wall, which has been advertised as a novel venue for children’s birthday parties, and of the polygrass pitch alongside the National Hockey Stadium – popular amongst outside users as a football pitch.
The synthetic Devlin Park GAA and R2 Rugby pitches have also seen improved usage since their refurbishment in 2007 – the latter notably as a training venue for the Ireland senior international rugby squad – but revenue from these sources is ring-fenced towards repayment on the two million euro mortgage taken by the Sports Centre to fund their renovation.
Barnes told The University Observer that “the facilities are primarily for the use of students, and the prime usage time – between 5pm and 10pm throughout the winter months – doesn’t make any money because student clubs, quite rightly, have them free of charge.” He also stated that the ‘Get in Gear’ programme offered by the Sports Centre for €30 per person actually costs about €160 per person to operate, but added that the Sports Centre is intended to provide a holistic service to the student body, rather than to act as a revenue generator for the University.
Any income garnered from the activities of the Sports Centre is reinvested in the High Performance Unit within the University, and funds the full-time GAA, soccer and rugby executives who administer the respective sports clubs.
While revenue from outside usage of the University’s sports facilities has risen in recent years, Barnes warned that problems would likely arise when the flooring of the main Sports Centre halls, and the bleacher seating areas, are due for renovation within a few years, remarking that to refit the halls would cost “hundreds of thousands of euro”, while the Centre was “just managing to balance the books” at the present time.
Barnes paid tribute to the staff of the Sports Centre who were responsible for money-spinning ideas such as the use of the climbing wall as a party venue, and commended them for being “very, very highly motivated.”