Foxford Sports and Leisure Centre building was constructed in the 1990s under the guidance of a local group made up of representatives from local sporting organisations. This group formed the company, established a Board of Directors and acquired the land from the Diocese on a long-term lease. For a while, the project remained incomplete when funding ran out, but the Capital Sports Grant funding and local fundraising helped to complete the project in early 2000.
The initial aim of the centre came from the need to provide recreational facilities for the local schools and gradually evolved to include the community at large, providing a range of sporting, social and leisure services.
Foxford Sports and Leisure Centre provide a gym and exercise classes for the community. They also provide classrooms and sporting facilities for the adjoining secondary school catering for up to four hundred students per day.
Their aim is to cater for as many diverse groups as possible including mothers and toddlers, sporting organisations, Western Care, Foxford Scouts, Irish Red Cross, Active Retirement Group, the Travelling Community, social dancing, Fleadh Cheoil, craft fair, and fundraising groups. They have a dedicated safe space for Foxford Youth Group. Footfall to the centre for 2017 was over 100,000 including students, weekly bingo users, special events,fitness and other activities.
The centre provides employment for five full-time staff plus a manager. This is primarily funded through the Pobal Community Services Program and is topped up with traded income raised by the organisation. The roles include administration, cleaning and maintenance and gym instruction. The large busy centre requires staff to be capable of sharing duties. For example, providing supervision at kids’ camps, birthday parties and car boot sales could require assistance from all staff.
While the centre is very grateful to be funded by Pobal they find that the community and social ethic is being constantly challenged by the requirement to reach difficult financial targets relating to 30% traded income.
With regard to additional supports for social enterprises, small grants from other organisations have been of benefit. Foxford Sports and Leisure Centre have the support and advice of Mayo North East Leader Partnership who have been extremely helpful and have guided them through various training seminars, human resource supports, recruitment and grant applications.
The staff in Pobal have provided advice and guidance in relation to annual returns preparation, support and guidance.
Foxford Sports and Leisure Centre is a central hub for the community, centrally placed they provide easy to access, free parking and have a building that is capable of hosting large and small events.
Facilities include a large sports hall and a number of smaller rooms – forty different organisations have used the facility in the past year.
Bingo, provided as a social outing, takes place for 51 weeks a year with up to 250 people arriving from all parts of the county. Large events hosted at the centre include the annual Craft Fair (which attracts thousands), fundraisers for sports clubs and the centre was transformed for a night to host the school re-union, which amazed past-students.
In measuring success, it is difficult to look at it in financial terms because to do so would steer an organisation to seek out commercial enterprises and events only, and show no regard to the individuals and groups within the community. It is better to evaluate it on its sustainability because it is a measure of prudent management of resources balanced with the provision of affordable services. A number of commercial events and room rentals has allowed the centre to maintain affordability for charitable and not-for-profit organisations and for individuals.
The growth in footfall suggests that the message of our utility is spreading. The development of social media has helped in creating awareness of the centre.
Repairs and upgrades are constant. In the last year alone, substantial investment was put into a new heating system and upgrade of the lighting to the more cost-efficient LED.
This is funded through borrowings. Painting is continuous for a building of this size. A lot of the organisations and individuals that are supported do not have the resources themselves to pay close to commercial rates for the services that are provided.