The GAA has announced plans for a new world-class Handball and Community Centre as part of a major new development close to Croke Park, including new housing and a new larger "processional" entrance to the stadium.
A partnership plan between the GAA and the local handball community to facilitate the development also ends a 28-year bitter battle over the future of the existing handball centre beside Hill 16.
Under the agreement, jointly announced today by the GAA and Irish Handball Council Sports Centre, the GAA has agreed to work with Dublin City Council on the reconstruction of Sackville Avenue. This will provide new housing, demolition of the existing Croke Villas, a new entrance to Croke Park to take pressure off other local streets and a state of the art National Handball and Community Centre.
The agreement is the result of a lengthy mediation process chaired by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern who said the new handball and community centre will cost some €12 million. The cost of the entire project has not yet been fully quantified but is expected to be very substantial.
The project will require planning permission and other approvals, to be sought in the near future and the new centre will be managed by a partnership arrangement between the GAA and the local community and handball centre members.
Until the new centre replaces the existing one, arrangements have been agreed for the GAA to participate in the management of the existing premises. The All-Ireland 60 x 30 finals and semi-finals for 2016 will take place in the existing facility this autumn until the new centre is built.
Mr Ahern welcomed the agreement and said he was "very pleased to have played a role in clearing the way for the renewal of a part of Ballybough that desperately needs it and in adding an important new mechanism for the GAA and local community to work together".
GAA President Aogán Ó Fearghail said the Association sees the arrangements agreed with Dublin City Council and the local handball community “as an opportunity for the GAA to make a further contribution to the improvement and renewal of the area surrounding Croke Park”.
The GAA looked forward to working closely with the local community in the new partnership arrangements, he said.
Eamon O'Brien, Chairman of the Croke Park Streets Committee and treasurer of the local handball centre, said they were delighted with the agreement which amounted to the biggest investment by the GAA to date in the local area. The new entrance to Croke Park will end the "lockdown" imposed on residents on big match and concert days, he said.
The agreement also ended a 28-year long dispute with the GAA which has caused considerable stress to himself and others involved in the handball centre, including court proceedings taken by the GAA which will be struck out under the deal, he added.
Fintan Farrelly, Chairman of the Irish Handball Council Sports Centre, said the local centre members welcomed the spirit of partnership and co-operaiton that forms the basis of the agreement, were happy the long-running court case has bene resolved and looked forward to a "harmonious" relationship with the GAA that will be an enormous benefit to the local community and the handball community.