2.23 Sports, Recreation and Community Facilities
The presence of sports and recreation facilities and accessibility to such social infrastructure is important for quality of life. Provision of such facilities must not only take into account the existing population base but also projected population growth.
Swimming and water sports
Limerick has two swimming pools for public use in the ownership of, or part owned by, the Council (Grove Island in the city and Askeaton Pool and Leisure in rural Limerick). Additional pools for public use are: the UL Arena at the University of Limerick’s main campus in Plassey, the Brothers of Charity Pool at Bawnmore in the southern suburbs and the West Limerick Sports Complex, Newcastle West. The hydrotherapy pool at St. Gabriel’s Dooradoyle, initially for children with disabilities in St. Gabriel’s services, is now available to the wider community across the Mid-West region. There are also private pools at hotels with leisure centres and many of these are available to the public on a membership basis.
The rivers and the Estuary are used for water sports including Open Water Swimming – for instance, in areas of the city, Castleconnell and Askeaton. Other areas used as traditional swimming include, for instance, Glin Pier, Kilteery Pier, along the Plassey Walk at UL, O’Briensbridge on the County Clare side of the river Shannon and the Clare Glens in east Limerick. Kayaking, canoeing and rowing club facilities are found in city locations (e.g., Athlunkard Boat Club, St. Michael’s Rowing Club, Curragower Boat Club) and in Castleconnell (e.g., Castleconnell Boat Club, Limerick Kayaking Academy).
There is potential for expansion and improvement of recreation facilities drawing on the resource and natural landscape of the rivers (Shannon, the Estuary, the Deel and the Mulcair). As well as growing interest in the local population in such activities, they are also important in developing activity-based tourism.
Indoor Sports / Gyms
Gyms and exercise studios are available across the local authority area but mostly in private or membership-based facilities. They are available within the complexes that host swimming pools – the local authority-owned / part-owned pools at Askeaton Pool and Leisure Centre and Grove Island, UL Arena and West Limerick Sports Complex.
Indoor sports facilities are developed in some schools and community centres / sports complexes. Based on an audit of community facilities undertaken by the local authority in 2019/2020, indoor sports facilities can be found in sports clubs (with gyms), schools which make their facilities available for wider community use and community centres. Within clubs and community facilities, local demand for such activities has increased. This generates additional sources of income / revenue for community / voluntary operations where facilities are available. Investment is needed for re-design of space to allow for indoor sports / physical activity programmes, expansion of the footprint of community centres to add indoor sports facilities, upgrading of toilet / shower and changing areas including improvements to support participation and access by people with disabilities.
There are three dedicated athletics facilities in Limerick - at the University of Limerick Arena, Bilboa Athletics Club in east Limerick and a new state-of-the art Regional Athletics Hub, Newcastle West (due to open in 2023). The facility at Newcastle West has been developed by the Council, co-funded by the Council and the Large-scale Sports Capital Fund, Department of Sport. The development of the Athletics Hub at Newcastle West responds to demand from athletics clubs in west and south Limerick within a broad catchment area of Newcastle West. It will operate as a municipal facility. In addition, athletics is integrated into sports facilities developed for other purposes or within multi-use facilities.
Some clubs use athletics-specific facilities in adjacent counties in County Clare, north Kerry, Cork and north Tipperary.
Play Areas, Parks, Open Spaces and Greenways
In recent years, recreation facilities for children and youth – in particular, Multi-Use Games Area (MUGSs) (eight) and skate parks (four) have been developed by the Council. These are located in areas with significant residential populations and families. Going forward, further provision of such facilities will be integrated into masterplanning of larger-scale developments (residential areas) and within major parks as part of planning for compact growth and population growth.
Limerick has 12 major parks which combined cover an area of 378.03 Hectares (1.94 HA per 1,000 population), the largest Curraghachase (225.24 HA). Other major parks include Lough Gur and Clare Glens in the east of the County, Baggott Estate, Shannon Fields and Westfields in the city, Castletroy Park, Plassey Bank Walk and Mungret Park. Across the city and county, there are a number of smaller parks and open spaces such as the Castle Demesne Newcastle West, Adare Town Park, Croom Community Park and the People’s Park in the city. In preparing a Green and Blueway Infrastructure (GBI) Strategy for the City and Environs (2022), significant areas of unused or passive green space are identified that could be designed / developed as recreation space, natural play areas, nature areas and bio-diversity corridors. This will be an important agenda going forward and is incorporated into many objectives of the Limerick Development Plan 2022-2028.
Limerick has 32 playgrounds distributed across the city and county and six of those are within other open spaces / parks. With population growth and shifts in population in some areas, there may be deficits in playground provision in certain areas of the city and metropolitan area and parts of rural Limerick. There is a general need for improvement / upgrading works to many existing playgrounds. With support from funding programmes including CLÁR in rural areas suffering from population decline, LEADER in rural Limerick, the Limerick Regeneration Programme in the most disadvantaged areas of the city and other funding streams in local community development, community groups are developing new and improving play provision – e.g., adding sensory gardens, improving play areas adjacent to schools and pre-schools.
Limerick has the 40km Limerick Greenway with a state-of-the art macadam surface traversing west Limerick, running through the main towns of Abbeyfeale, through Newcastle West and into Rathkeale. A number of additional routes (e.g., to expand the Limerick Greenway into Adare and city environs) are at different stages of feasibility assessment and planning. The Limerick Greenway is extending into north Kerry, with the Limerick City and County Council and Kerry County Council working together in expanding the greenway route all the way through to the north Kerry coast. The Castletroy Urban Greenway, opened in 2021, is a 1.3km off-road greenway linking local schools, playground, shops and home in sub-urban Castletroy.
There is large number of soccer clubs and pitches across the local authority area. The number of pitches is estimated at approximately 130 pitches including a small number of Artificial Grass / All Weather pitches. However, this is an evolving situation as clubs work to improve and expand their facilities – pitches, lighting, club houses and associated facilities - drawing on funding such as the Sports Capital programme and with support from the FAI Development Unit.
Rugby pitches are developed in the city / suburban areas and parts of rural Limerick. There is a number of well-established clubs including: Garryowen RFC, Shannon RFC, Young Munster’s RFC, UL Bohemians RFC and Newcastle West RFC and Bruff RFC in rural Limerick. There is considered to be a need for additional pitches / pitch improvement and club house / hub facilities for rugby.
In relation to GAA, 83 GAA pitch sites including hurling and Gaelic Football are identified across the city and county on the GAA Pitch Locator. Some of these have more than one pitch available. A small number have Artificial Grass / All Weather pitches. Again, this is an evolving situation as clubs work to develop their facilities locally.
Pitches and associated facilities can benefit from improvement works, flood lighting, pitch expansions (including All Weather Facilities), improvement to club houses / new club houses / dressing room facilities disability / vulnerable user access and other works. These types of works are undertaken by clubs through fund-raising and grant funding from Sports Capital and programmes such as LEADER in rural Limerick, CLÁR in rural areas suffering depopulation, the Limerick Regeneration Programme in the regeneration areas of the city and small-scale funding from the Community Enhancement Programme.
There are three major sports stadia in Limerick City – Thomand Park (rugby), GAA/TUS Gaelic Grounds and the Marketsfield (soccer) – as well as advanced facilities at UL Arena and sports pitches at Mary Immaculate College.
In terms of other sports provision, tennis sites in Limerick are mostly in the city and suburbs – Limerick Lawn Tennis Club, Ennis Road, the Catholic Institute Ballinacurra Gardens, Monaleen Tennis Club and Hospital Tennis Club in east Limerick. There is a small number of pitches on artificial surface for hockey in the city, located within educational facilities / schools and available for wider use (e.g., Crescent Sports Grounds, Laurel Hill, Villiers School, Catholic Institute Athletics and University of Limerick).
There are seven (7) golf courses in Limerick, all have 18 holes and pro shops and options of driving ranges. One facility, Rathbane, is owned by Limerick City and County Council, and operates under commercial management offering membership options and pay and play. The other six (Castletroy, Ballyneety, Newcastle West, Adare Manor, Limerick Golf Club) are private facilities but offer membership access and pay and play. Adare Manor has a championship course with Adare selected to host the prestigious Ryder Cup in 2027. There are also golf facilities in adjacent counties – Tipperary, north Cork, Clare.
Linked to the agenda to create compact settlements and the 10-minute neighbourhood, expansion / improvement to facilities accessible to residential populations is an important agenda going forward. Having such facilities in place is also important to community well-being and quality of life.
Limerick City and County Library Services has 16 branch offices across the city and county. It hosts a vast catalogue of books, e-books, audio-books, newspapers, magazines and electronic materials available in physical library settings and through online services. The Library Service provides for culture, education, information, learning, recreation and study needs of people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities. It provides information for businesses, promotes and supports health and well-being (books and other resource materials, campaigns, events) and literacy / reading as well as hosting cultural and art exhibitions and other activities. Library spaces also provide meeting places for groups / community and some have special resources such as a sensory room space for people with autism (at Watch House Cross branch) and assistive technologies for reading for people with dementia and other impairments. Development of a new central library for Limerick is included in the overall place for Opera Square in the Limerick city centre.
A study to audit community facilities / buildings and community cultural facilities across Limerick City and County was undertaken during 2020. This identified 257 such facilities widely distributed across the local authority area - in the city, in towns and villages and remote rural areas. There are some geographic “gaps” in provision, mostly in established and populous areas in the suburbs and wider Metropolitan Area with an average or above average socio-economic profile, and some need for community facilities in / close to the city centre. In rural Limerick, there are clusters of facilities generally available in the larger towns and some villages. Small villages tend to have at least one centre available for community use and there also facilities in some remote rural locations.
There are concentrations of cultural and arts facilities in the core of the city (mostly older buildings being re-used for these purposes), and a mix of buildings for community use across the city including community centres, parish and scout halls, schools, youth and family service centres, education and training facilities, churches and libraries. Specific-purpose community centres are located, predominately, in the disadvantaged areas of Limerick City. Schools and sports clubs are used in the suburbs / parts of the Metropolitan Area which lack specific-purpose community centres.
Facilities in rural Limerick are predominately buildings where the primary purpose is community use, with the majority owned and managed by local voluntary and community groups. In some areas, schools and sports clubs are also used for community meetings and other activities. In the larger towns and some villages, cultural and arts buildings are present including small theatres and arts and heritage centres which, in addition to their core cultural activities, make space available for wider community use.
The community and cultural facilities comprise a mix of old stock and new / modern buildings – mostly constructed in the period from the 1970’s through to the 1990’s and some involved the renovation and re-use of older heritage buildings for community use. A small number of new community centres in rural Limerick and the urban / Metropolitan Area are being delivered currently or at the planning, design and fund-raising stages. Mostly the buildings used are fit for purpose with the majority rated by organisations running them as “Good” or “Excellent”. However, the majority of buildings operate with “Fair”, through “Poor” to “Very Poor” energy efficiency and are reliant on older energy systems.
A wide range of services for communities and specific groups are delivered from community facilities across the city and in rural Limerick – e.g., training, education and learning, arts and cultural activities, physical activity classes, information / advice, childcare, services to older people, community shop, social enterprise and hospitality. There is reliance on volunteers across urban and rural areas to run and manage the operations and on staff on temporary employment programmes using unemployed or under-employed people on active labour market programmes such as CE/Tús and RSS. This can present difficulties in maintaining services and upkeep of the buildings and outdoor areas while lack of personnel to run operations is a constraint on expansion of activities.
Key areas for public investment identified in the study include: improved energy efficiency of buildings such as replacement of old energy systems, installation of electric car charging points, sustainable travel (community / public transport, walking and cycling); re-design of space for new / alternative uses (e.g., remote working, catering services, after-schools), upgrading works (improvements to kitchen areas, toilets, showers, disability access) and better utilisation of outdoor space. There is a need to plan for succession, to expand the volunteer base, especially to attract younger people into volunteering and to improve the financial sustainability of many of the operations.
 See Background Papers, Community & Recreation, Limerick Development Plan 2022-2028 https://www.limerick.ie/council/services/planning-and-property/limerick-development-plan/how-do-you-see-limerick-2028