Belfast Telegraph

Dundalk's £390m ski, tourism and casino development gets green light

Northern Irish businessman plans Europe’s largest artificial ski slope

By Elaine Keogh

A Northern Irish businessman has been given planning permission for a £390m futuristic tourism resort in Dundalk, transforming it from ‘Dodge City’ to something closer to Dubai.

The Altitude resort will be Europe’s largest all-weather ski slope facility with the main slope measuring 210m long and 64m wide.

Sam Curran, director of Innovative Leisure Systems Ltd (ILS), said he expects to have the first phase of the Co Louth project open by the end of next year.

The ski training facility will be on the roof of a complex that will also include water attractions and other family leisure pursuits.

It is planned for a greenfield site a few minutes from the M1 motorway, easing access from Northern Ireland.

When all phases of the park are open it will provide approximately 1200 full-time and 380 part-time jobs.

Mr Curran also wants to develop a £1.5m ice rink in south Belfast. He said that if the project — proposed for a site on the Linfield Road — gets approval from Belfast City Council it will “contribute to the wider drive to regenerate this part of Belfast”.

He said the planned rink would have “a great central location and good access to the road and public transport network linking Belfast with other parts of Northern Ireland and the Republic.”

Mr Curran is originally from the Village area of south Belfast and worked at Murray’s Whitehall Tobacco Works. The intended site for the skating rink sits just to the rear of a new office complex that incorporates Murray’s.

Welcoming the approval of planners in Louth for the Dundalk project, he said: “This clears the way for us to move forward so work can commence on site early next year with a view to the first phase of the facilities — including the ski slopes — being operational in November 2012 in time for the winter sports season.”

The company hopes the water and leisure park aspects will open around Easter 2013.

“Our next step now that we have received permission is to engage in the final rounds of negotiations with our operators and investors,” said Mr Curran.

If all phases are approved, there will also be a 100-bed hostel, a concert arena, a surf and water leisure dome, a 80,000-sq ft leisure zone to include a cinema, 10-pin bowling and children’s zone as well as shops, restaurants and bars.

Background

During the Troubles Dundalk was considered by unionists to be a safe haven for IRA members wanted by the security forces in Northern Ireland. In the 1970s the media dubbed the frontier town ‘El Paso’, after the American town in Texas on the Mexican border, further cementing its unfortunate reputation. More recently, Dundalk was a big loser at the height of the cross-border shopping boom, which saw thousands flock north to take advantage of lower prices.

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