GAA and Cork board move to clarify cost of Páirc Uí Chaoimh redevelopment

Two stadium committee board members to examine figures after reported €24m overrun

The redeveloped Páirc Uí Chaoimh reopened in July 2017. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

The redeveloped Páirc Uí Chaoimh reopened in July 2017. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

 

The GAA and the Cork County Board have moved to defuse a dispute over a reported €24 million overrun on the development of Páirc Uí Chaoimh with an announcement that the board charged with running the stadium have appointed two board members to examine the costs of the project.

GAA fans in Cork and around the country were left scratching their heads after Croke Park stadium director Peter McKenna told the Irish Examiner last Friday that the redevelopment of the 45,000-seater stadium had soared from the last reported figure of €86 million to €110 million.

But McKenna’s figure was roundly rejected by Cork County Board chairperson Tracey Kennedy when she told over 300 delegates at the Cork County Board annual convention on Saturday night that the actual cost of the redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh was unchanged at €86 million.

Sources close to Cork County Board have told The Irish Times that Cork officials were furious with McKenna’s claim the cost of the redevelopment was €110 million and they expressed confidence that closer inspection of the figures would reveal that the county board estimate of €86 million was correct.

McKenna had told the Irish Examiner that the final cost of the refurbishment was “probably close to €110 million” but didn’t give any breakdown of the overrun and said the GAA as an association needed to take a far closer look at itself in terms of addressing the budget overrun.

He suggested that the GAA needed to put an experienced management team in place to run Páirc Uí Chaoimh, effectively removing decision making regarding the strategic use of the stadium from local officers, which would allow Croke Park take a more hands-on role in the running of the new stadium.

But now following a meeting of the Páirc Uí Chaoimh stadium committee chaired by GAA president John Horan, the GAA has confirmed that two members of the committee, businessman Michael O’Flynn, and accountant Tom Gray, have been appointed to clarify the cost issue.

“Michael O’Flynn and Tom Gray, both (Páirc Uí Chaoimh) board directors, have been asked by the board to examine figures and clarify the costs relating to the stadium redevelopment,” said the GAA in a joint statement issued on behalf of Horan and Kennedy.

McKenna also raised concerns about the playing surface at the ground which had to be heavily sanded earlier this year for some hurling league games and he said that it was “very unstable” and some “fairly aggressive remedial work” would have to be undertaken to ensure it is up to standard.

But the Páirc Uí Chaoimh stadium committee, which includes McKenna, also sought to play down the disruption caused by remedial work, which it said would take place ahead of the Allianz League games and would not require the use of a replacement pitch in the short term.

Both Horan and Kennedy moved to strike an optimistic note with Horan saying he was delighted the GAA has such “a positive asset in Cork” and Kennedy saying it was fantastic for Cork GAA to be able to “call on the experience and expertise of Croke Park” to help it operate the stadium.

While the initial estimate for the cost of the stadium was around €60 million when the project was first mooted around 2010, a more realistic figure was that of €79 million for which the County Board executive sought approval from the full county board in 2015.

Funding for the project was to come from a variety of sources with GAA HQ contributing €20 million and the government providing €30 million in return for the stadium being available to host rugby games had Ireland won the right to host the 2023 World Cup.

The Munster Council of the GAA was to contribute a further €3.75 million while Cork County Board was to contribute a further €10 million, leaving the stadium business committee chaired by former Bord Gáis chairman John Mullins to find approximately another €16 million.

However, in 2016 the County Board executive sought approval from delegates to obtain a further €7 million to bring the cost to €86 million with delegates being promised that zoned lands at Kilbarry owned by Cork County Board could be sold to bring in a further €10 million.

Naming rights for the stadium was also expected to bring in revenue, creating an impression that Cork GAA would not be left with an unwieldy debt, a point again made by Kennedy at Saturday’s annual convention when she said clubs would not be saddled with any levies to pay off the stadium bill.

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