In 2015 Athenry Association Football Club & Athenry Athletics Club (Juvenile & Senior) agreed to work together with the goal of providing additional sporting facilities that would benefit both clubs. The group purchased 9 acres of land adjacent to the existing football club with the aim of providing a full size 4G all-weather football pitch plus a 400m tartan running track with associated jump lanes & floodlighting. This would greatly compliment the existing grass pitches of the existing football club grounds whilst it would finally give a home to the athletics club, benefiting a combined membership of close to 1,000 members of all ages, genders, race & abilities.
For the next two years the group concentrated on fundraising & design so that by the end of 2017 planning permission was obtained for the development and also, importantly, any debts resulting from the land purchase were completely cleared. During this period the group also formed a highly skilled Development Committee from within the clubs, consisting of a Quantity Surveyor, Solicitor, Architect, Project Manager, Developer & more, ensuring the scheme was guided by a team with a wealth of knowledge in bringing large scale construction developments to fruition.
Since 2018 the group have been successful in three grant applications through the Galway Rural Development (Leader Project) Scheme, to the value of €103,000 (total value of works including self-funding element €148,000), to provide a tarmac perimeter walkway, bench seating, outdoor exercise equipment plus accessibility works & disabled accessible exercise equipment to ensure the scheme is available to people of all abilities. To compliment this the group were also successful, in co-operation with Galway County Council, in the awarding of €45,000 for the construction of a public footpath between the adjacent ring road and the facility, ensuring a permanent and safe link between Athenry Town & the sports development.
To enable the above grant awarded works be undertaken (Phase 2) the group decided to kick start the project and self-fund the initial site preparation works (Phase 1), to the value of €60,000, so that by the end of 2020 what was once a sloped, overgrown field emerged as an attractive, contoured sports arena complete with community walkway and exercise facilities. Most importantly, the track & pitch area are now compacted and levelled, ready for final drainage & playing surfaces (Phase 3).
Excitingly, during the recent Phase 1 works we teamed up with Athenry Tidy Towns who have prepared a landscaping layout for the site and on Saturday, 18th December 2020, approximately 4,000 trees & hedges were planted by the Tidy Towns and club members in conjunction with Athenry Mens Shed. This, over time, will create a truly wonderful parkland setting with the pathway snaking through native woodland species with park benches and outdoor exercise equipment located throughout.
Since the walkway opened in November 2020, we have seen the facility used on a daily basis by every walk of life, young and old. Some people run it, some walk, some by themselves and others with their family. The ring road nearby has been a great health benefit to the town as a walking / running route and now to be able to veer of it onto a parkland setting walkway is a great addition.
In February 2021 we made an application to the Sports Capital Grant Scheme for funds to carry out drainage works and also to put down the tarmac base layer for the track. The tarmac base layer will be useable as a training track, and this will be fully lined ready for use. However, we do hope that we will be able to raise sufficient funds on top of the Sports Capital Grant to complete the top surface of the track with a high-spec Tartan surface.