Developing centre of excellence separate to Cork GAA stadium ‘not an option’

Hearing told €70m refurbishment of Pairc Ui Chaoimh essential for it to host major games

Cork’s Eoin Cadogan challenges Paul Geaney of Kerry during the Munster senior championship final at Pairc Ui Chaoimh in Cork last July. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Cork’s Eoin Cadogan challenges Paul Geaney of Kerry during the Munster senior championship final at Pairc Ui Chaoimh in Cork last July. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

 

The development of a centre of excellence at a separate location from Pairc Ui Chaoimh in Cork is not a viable option for the GAA, an oral hearing into a planning application has heard.

Design Project Manager, Seamus Kelly told the An Bord Pleanala hearing into the proposed €70 million redevelopment the provision of a centre of excellence was essential to the redevelopment of the GAA stadium, which is in urgent need of refurbishment.

The centre of excellence would incorporate an all-weather pitch for intercounty teams as well as changing areas, gymnasium, medical and food facilities and co-locating it next to the stadium would avoid wasteful duplication which would cost €5 million, Mr Kelly said. “The requirements of elite athletes are for top class facilities, catering for all their requirements and it is essential that county teams can be prepared at one venue at all times, independent of weather conditions,” he said. “It makes no financial sense to incur a cost in excess €5 million to replicate the required facilities at two different venues.”

Mr Kelly said the refurbishment of Pairc Ui Chaoimh is essential as its capacity has been reduced from its original capacity of 50,000 when it first opened in 1976 to its current level of 40,000 due to health and safety considerations.

He said reducing capacity to below 40,000 renders Pairc Ui Chaoimh unsuitable for major games and failing to refurbish the grounds will lead to further reductions in capacity which will make it no longer be viable as an inter-county ground offering the modern facilities expected by fans.

Mr Kelly said the refurbishment will involve demolishing existing covered south stand and its replacement with a new three-tier covered south stand incorporating dressing rooms, food and drink facilities, gymnasium, toilets, meeting rooms, office, museum and spectator concourses.

The uncovered stand will also be redeveloped, involving the removal of the lowest third of the stand and the erection of a roof, while both terraces will also be altered and the existing tunnels will be removed and replaced.

The new south stand will have a capacity of 13,000, up from its current level of 9,435, while the north stand will have a capacity of 8,000, down from its current level of 10,030. The two terraces will each accommodate 12,000 fans.

The changes will also provide unrestricted access to the stadium on all four sides and will considerably enhance the safety of spectators, he said.

An Bord Pleanala inspector Hugh Mannion heard the refurbishment was in keeping with Cork City Council’s South Docklands Local Area Plan 2008 and its Cork City Development Plan 2009-2015 which includes proposals for the development of a Marina Park.

The Marina Park plan covers an area of 32 hectares with the Pairc Ui Chaoimh stadium and all-weather facility occupying 5.4 hectares, of which 2.77 hectares was acquired by the GAA from Cork City Council after it compulsorily purchased the former Cork Showgrounds.

Both the new stadium and the adjacent all-weather pitch, which is full size and will include a 1,000 seat viewing area incorporated into the back of the stadium’s south stand, will be floodlit, the hearing was told.

An appellant against Cork City Council’s granting of planning permission for the project, Richard Cronin expressed concerns about the traffic congestion which will arise from more events being held at the venue given the parking problems that already exist on match days.

Mr Cronin also expressed concern about the impact a full size all-weather pitch will have on potential flooding in adjacent areas as well as severing the linear development of the proposed Marina Park.

The hearing continues tomorrow.