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`10,000 jobs at risk' if Maze plan is rejected

The design for the concourse of the proposed multi-sports stadium at the Maze.

MINISTERS in the Executive have been warned that 10,000 jobs could be at risk if they reject plans for the redevelopment of the Maze.

A Finance Department document leaked last month seemed to undermine the proposal by putting the cost of the sports stadium at 379m.

However, a high level briefing paper prepared for the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister, which has been seen by the BBC, warns of the potential cost of doing nothing.

Private sector companies were initially invited to bid for the contract to develop the Maze in December 2006, with bidding open until the end of January 2008, but this was extended until the end of May.

A preferred developer was selected they were not named, or informed of the result, as politicians decided whether to go ahead with the project.

However, it is believed this is the Texas based Hillwood corporation, which is chaired by the billionaire Ross Perot.

Leaked

The leaked report cautions: "Ministers should be aware of the implications of allowing the procurement to lapse without a clear decision or of turning down without full consideration of more detailed information from the bidder a potentially viable deal" that might be viewed at a future date by the NI Audit Office or the Public Accounts Committee as 'offering good value compared with doing nothing or developing other equally beneficial alternatives'. The preferred bidder is described as 'a major world-class developer' offering a 'conveyor belt of employment opportunities' from America's top corporations.

The document goes to on suggest that the Maze development 'could result in 10,000 jobs' adding, 'the risk in refusal is of sending the message that NI is not open for business, especially so soon after the investment conference'.

Maze is 'best option' for stadium

THE report also says the Maze venue had the potential to generate significant revenue and was the 'best option,' with the overall cost to the taxpayer after the first four years being 37m. This was based on projected figures of being able to attract 500,000 paying spectators to 23 major sporting and music events in a year.

The Gaelic Athletic Association, the Irish Football Association and Ulster Rugby have all confirmed they would play matches at the 38,500 all-seater stadium.

As well as looking at the refurbishment of the three bodies' existing venues, the report flagged up the benefits of a hypothetical stadium at Belfast's north foreshore but went on to rule it out on the grounds of cost.

'Hypothetically such an option would generate high visitor spending benefits because it is located closer to the city centre, but these are outweighed by the capital and infrastructure costs and the higher value of this site' it says.

Ulster Star
27/06/2008