When Waterford Crystal went into receivership in January 2009, the famous visitors’ center went with it. For 25 years it had been one of Ireland’s big tourist attractions, catering to up to 330,000 visitors per year. It closed its doors officially on February 5, 2009.
But this June a new Waterford Crystal center will open. It will be smaller than the previous center and at a different site – in fact, right in the heart of Waterford City.
“A lot of people are very excited about the new facility,” a spokeswoman told IrishCentral. “They’re glad to see that the brand name and the manufacturing is being kept in Waterford city.”
It’s from the city of Waterford that the crystal company got its name when two brothers founded it in 1783. The firm is no stranger to financial hardship. In the 19th century it closed down because of a lack of capital, only to reopen less than a hundred years later.
The new visitors’ center will occupy a purpose-built 1.5 acre site near the River Suir and Waterford Quay. It will be “smaller in scale, and designed for the new location,” the spokeswoman said.
It will also offer a factory tour and a visitor experience similar to that of the older center.
The new manufacturing facility will produce more than 40,000 pieces of crystal every year, with highly skilled workers crafting chandeliers and blowing crystal, as well as sculpting and engraving trophies, vases, and other items. The visitors’ center will house the largest collection of Waterford Crystal in the world.
Waterford City Council is contributing to the project, which is expected to employ about 130 people.
When the company was sold last year, a US-based equity fund called KPS bought it. That firm set up WWRD – Waterford, Wedgewood and Royal Doulton – which will run the new center.
In a press statement, the CEO of WWRD, Pierre de Villeméjane, said: “We are committed to working with Waterford City Council to ensure that crystal manufacturing in Waterford continues uninterrupted from now onwards.
He added, “We sincerely hope that this will prove to be a crucial step on the road to recovery for the city and the region.”
The center opens on June 1 of this year. Coach tours begin on June 15.
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