Athone IT President and Athletics Ireland President Ciaran O Cathain gets things underway at the Community Games National Finals last weekend. Photo: Ann Hennessy.
Athlone's relationship with the Community Games looks set to be cemented - with the news the national finals will remain in AIT up to 2015, as the sporting organisation also announced plans to relocate its headquarters to the town.
The Community Games sees approximately 3,000 competitors participate in each of the three weekends of national finals a year, with one weekend held in May and two weekends held during August. They are joined by an estimated 12,000 spectators and volunteers in what has proved to be a significant economic boost for local businesses at the end of the summer
"We would have an agreement with AIT right up to 2015," President of Community Games Gerry Davenport confirmed to the Westmeath Independent this week, adding that they are happy with how the massive community sporting event panned out this year.
"We have no problem staying there (AIT) for the minute. It's suitable for our needs. Both of us are happy with the agreement in place," he pointed out.
The Community Games chief said they are looking forward to the launch of the new indoor development which will gave them scope to introduce new ideas or activities to the programme. Although very appreciative of local schools and halls for giving their facilities for events over the last few years, he stated the new multi-million euro indoor arena project will add to the already excellent infrastructure in AIT.
"With the new development coming on board it will allow us to hold more competitions within the AIT complex. We are confident it will be ready for us in May. We will be able to hold more competitions in the indoor facility and it opens up new ideas for us, maybe to add new activities, for example, we will examine indoor athletics," he enthused.
Having spoken to local businesses over last weekend, Mr Davenport said the national finals has proven of huge economic benefit to Athlone.
"If you ask anyone in the business community, there wasn't a bed in a hotel or B&B to be got over the weekend this side of Roscommon town or Ballinasloe. We know of some parents who stayed in Roscommon town," he highlighted, adding that retailers also enjoyed a jump in sales after a bad summer.
In another boost for the town, the National Community Games administrative office is in the process of relocating to Athlone from Parkwest in Dublin and should be open by October.
The organisation has purchased a full floor of office space in the Inis "ir development in Golden Island, above Coffee Haven and FAS, where seven staff are expected to be based from mid-October.
The Community Games movement nationwide involves 200,000 participants and over 10,000 volunteers in the 32 counties at local, area and national levels every year. The national finals were first held in Athlone IT back in 2009.