Fifty years ago last April, on the very first edition of the new Galway Advertiser, was an impressive and rare in those days, colour photograph of the proposed Leisureland development planned for Salthill. Under a headline of Galway in the 1970s, it promised a facility that would be at the heart of Galway and west of Ireland life for years to come. And so it has been.
It delivered an event venue where elections would be fought and won and lost, where exams were sat with beads of sweat dropping off the brows of the students, where bands such as U2 belted out the hits from Boy, where fledgling businesses got their lift from stands at expositions.
It also promised a swimming pool where generations of Galway people would learn to swim; it was a place where holidaymakers would slide down into the water, while catching a glimpse of Galway Bay outside across the road.
In essence, Leisureland has been at the heart of Galway life for 47 years, a throwback to a different age, but a facility nonetheless that serves the same purpose so many years later. 50 years on, it is still the biggest stand alone event space in the region.
How many nights and days we all had at Leisureland in so many different capacities that would be impossible to imagine now under the current restrictions? How many times has that hall been packed to capacity for events that shaped our lives?
So there is a sadness today at the news that the facility may face a major scaling down of its activities this season because of the financial difficulties brought upon it by the absence of crowd events, by the necessary restrictions forced upon us by this cruel pandemic.
In normal circumstances, the funding to save it would be found, but these are not normal circumstances, and the local authorities themselves are struggling to maintain their other responsibilities at this unprecedented juncture. However, we still hope that its beating heart and the livelihoods of the staff will be preserved, so that as guidelines change and a semblance of normal life returns, it will be there for us still to create more and more generations of memories.
Leisureland is not alone in feeling this pinch. Our city, our towns, our villages are all homes to businesses and facilities that are brought to their knees by the times that we live in.
Because of this, it is important that we support our local businesses as much as possible, preserve the facilities so that we can rebuild society in the new year and beyond.
Some day soon, we will all sing again in Leisureland; we will stay through the night with never ending election counts, the strains of our favourite musicians and actors will flow down from the stage, we will celebrate the renewal of a venue that is uniquely Galway, but which is known the length and breadth of the country.
— In separate news, can I wish our industry colleagues in the Connacht Tribune the best of luck in their new offices out in Liosban. The Tribune team is this week leaving the offices it has occupied at Market St in the heart of the city for over a century. The city centre won’t be the same without ye. Wishing ye continued prosperity and contentment, guys.