The venue has been equipped with a technical infrastructure by UK based LBI Projects
Ireland - On the far west coast of Ireland, an event and concert venue has been newly created, with a remarkable backstory. Not a surprise, perhaps, in this fabled land of poetry, folk song and traditional music, in which its soil is steeped; but this is a venture that, given the financial background of the country, has taken considerable energy to create one of the largest multipurpose venues in western Ireland.

The core impetus for this was the annual series of Sligo Live festivals, inaugurated eight years ago as a public-private initiative to promote the city of Sligo as both a musical centre and a tourist destination. The musical theme of the festival is based around folk, roots and indie, and is hosted by multiple pubs, bars and theatres in the city, the region's most populous area, a major tourist destination and former home to poet W B Yeats and Spike Milligan. The city itself has great potential to host conferences with a multiplicity of hotels, bars and historical attractions, as well as beautiful, mountainous scenery and beaches along County Sligo's coast.

Last year, with the festival's reputation steadily growing and local and international enthusiasm for Irish music as strong as ever, a project began evolving to give the festival its largest ever venue, based at the 1,500m2 Knocknarea Arena sports hall at IT Sligo, the city's leading technology college.

Gordon Ryan, head of development and business operations for IT Sligo, was taken on by the institute two years ago with a remit both to expand its community reach and to as he puts it, "to make sure the college is utilised to its fullest. So we decided to explore the opportunity of converting it as required into an event and concert venue."

Anticipated usage is around 30-35 significant events per annum with a 1,200 capacity per event. The venue has been equipped with a technical infrastructure by UK based LBI Projects for conferences, concerts and as a multipurpose event space.

Says Ryan, "The market we're looking at breaks down into four groups - mainstream rock'n'roll/ music events, mature audiences, students and children. We've already had Van Morrison, Katie Tunstall, Elvis Costello, Christie Moore, Joan Armatrading and the RTE Symphony Orchestra.

"The total investment is around €1 million, funded by the college, and in conjunction with LBI I'm happy that we've put in a very high standard, high spec facility into the market," adding, "the staff at the arena headed by Gerry Dalton have been very accommodating and recognised by the artists and visiting productions as being hugely cooperative, and that's been an important part of the venture's success."

Sligo Live Festival director Rory O'Connor comments, "With the biggest available venue being an 800 capacity hotel ballroom with a low ceiling, we had been looking for some time for a suitable larger venue, and we identified the multipurpose hall at IT Sligo. We approached them and found to our delight that we were pushing at an open door. They were looking for ways of using the hall when it wasn't hosting sports, and were happy to work around it with us, carrying out a feasibility study on the hall.

"There were a number of challenges to be overcome in making the venue suitable for live performance, which LBI Projects dealt with effectively. They included the echo from the concrete walls, an overall industrial feel - and, most significantly, it has a very constant use as a sports hall. That means it has to be capable of being very quickly changed from one purpose to the other in a matter of hours, so the speed and ease of changeover was a really important factor."

A classic sports hall, it yields nothing to aesthetics with bare concrete block walls, although the architect's design included sound absorption in the roof.

UK based system integrator LBI Projects, headed by Gerry Logue, was appointed by IT Sligo to devise a way of temporarily transforming its 1970s-built col

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