Tralee is a town fortunate in many natural amenities it possesses both within its boundaries and outside. From the sweeping beaches of Banna and Ballyheigue through the glories of the Dingle Peninsula to the beauty of Killarney, no other town is so placed as Tralee to benefit from natures bounty. However, the people of Tralee did not rest content with natures generosity, a fine Gaeilic Sports Stadium, Aqua Dome, Town Park, Golf Course and other facilities are to the will to add to the natural amenities.
Such was the energy found in this town as far back as the late 1950’s the local swimming club in conjunction with the local authority had been exploring ways and means of building a swimming pool. The record shows that by the early 1960’s the Federation of Tralee Organisations were actively planning a poll with the support of Tralee Urban District Council and Tralee Vocational Educational Committee. Their efforts were not however successful and it was not until the early 1970’s that the planning of Tralee Sports Complex began.
On the 27th January, 1970 Dr Jim Brosnan, Chairman of County Kerry GAA Board approached the Tralee Urban District Council to outline the concept of a proposed Sports Complex and to solicit the support of the Urban District Council for the project, in particular by way of providing indoor swimming facilities. Tralee U.D.C. was in favour in principle but first required to sound out opinion in the whole community and to encourage community involvement.
Tralee Urban District Council, under the Chairmanship of Michael O Regan arranged a series of meetings with representatives of Sports Clubs, business and labour organisations, voluntary bodies and others concerned. These meetings showed awareness of the necessity and importance of a Sports Complex for the well being of the people. Those concerned with tourism could see also great advantage for the region in the provision of recreational amenities while others took note of the views of visiting industrialists that such amenities would be of significance in attracting new industry.
The meeting culminated in a final public meeting called by the U.D.C. representing all interested parties at which a Finance and Planning Committee was elected and a decision taken that the project should proceed. Tralee U.D.C. heartened by the support and enthusiasm found in the community agreed to raise a loan to finance to finance part of the project while Kerry County Council decided to further advance development by agreeing to pay their share of loan repayments.
Meanwhile a drive to collect funds was organised on a voluntary basis by way of a “shilling a week” which reached all sections of the community:- employers, employees, trade unions, industry, individuals etc, demonstrating in a concrete way how broadly based was the recognition of the value of the need for a Sports Complex with a comprehensive sports and recreational facilities.
This need was further endorsed by the highly extensive research study carried out by the architects O Sullivan Campbell of a dual use Sports Complex which would serve both the needs of the schools and community at large. The report served to draw together many threads of co-operation and goodwill at local level and become the format for a co-operative venture of great scope and vision. Progress on the pool development 25m x 9.5m was made with the Department of Local Government. The provision of a hall presented a greater difficulty until the goodwill of the Department of Education and the fertile ingenuity of Tralee Vocational Educational Committee a solution was found, thus the mainstays of the new centre was secured.
Opened in 1976, other facilities such as handball, racquetball and squash courts, saunas, tennis courts jogging track football pitches and more recently the construction of a new fitness centre (1987) and a Teaching Pool 12m x 7.5m (1994) and 4 flootlit Astroturf pitches (2010) have since been added to this central provision with current plans under way to develop a first floor area and further outdoor facilities as part of a major Sports Campus.
The decision to plan for a multi purpose Sports Complex of such magnitude was at the time seen by some as ludicerous and yet by others as a plan of great vision and scope made possible by persons who in the words immortalised by President Kennedy “Dreamed things that never were and asked why not”