Clonliffe Harriers athletics club has welcomed the approval of an ambitious proposal by Dublin City University (DCU) to take over the running and future development of the Morton Stadium in Santry.
Although it will continue as the National Athletics Stadium, DCU are now set to acquire a 40-year lease on the facility, after current owners Fingal County Council voted in support of the proposal at their full council meeting on September 13th.
The move still has to be signed off the board of Sport Ireland, who currently operate and manage the facility, and the new lease won't impact on the existing rights of Clonliffe, who have been the host club going back to the first founding of the stadium by Billy Morton in 1958.
Under the proposal, the Dublin university has already outlined the future development plans, in two phases, expected to cost in the region of €16 million. A new track surface, already deemed necessary, will be part of the first phase, ensuring the stadium is “fit for purpose”, funding sources to be both public and private.
Fingal, the local authority, took ownership of the stadium back in 1994, at the time when Clonliffe were unable to maintain the cost of running it. According to Noel Guidan, spokesperson for Clonliffe Harriers, the new deal would help ensure the best future of the stadium, even if it means it would likely be run on more openly commercial grounds.
“We were consulted from the very beginning, as one of the stakeholders in the stadium, in that we have our own lease on our site, which was taken out in 1994, and that’s actually a 250-year lease,” says Guidan. “The most important thing here is that the stadium is managed properly, as an athletics stadium, and as long it is improved going forward, and from the world go that’s the discussion we’ve been having with DCU, who will ensure that.”
After the Fingal purchase, Sport Ireland, as they are now, took over the management of the stadium around 10 years ago. “Since then there have been discussions around someone else coming on board, and that’s where DCU came in,” adds Guidan.
“Also, the 40-year lease granted to DCU doesn’t cover the portion of ground that is covered under our own lease. Our rights are not that big, we’ve two hours on a Tuesday and Thursday evening, and two hours on Sunday morning. That’s all being maintained and recognised, and of course we’ll still have our club house in the stadium, the rights of access, etc.
“It will always be called the Morton Stadium, it can’t be changed, and it is recognised by all that it is chiefly an athletics stadium. If it can accommodate other sports it will, but not to the detriment of athletics.
“DCU certainly do have big plans, and the immediate to short term thing is the track does have to be replaced, there are plans to further develop the stand, and we’d certainly support all that.
“The nightmare scenario is if it wasn’t run properly, three or four years’ time the thing disintegrates more, and Clonliffe ends up with a dirt track. But the Clonliffe connection is absolutely enshrined, as sole athletics representatives, no matter who runs or owns the facility. After that we’ll support whatever is best for the sport of athletics.”
Athletics Ireland, the governing body of the sport, don’t have any formal lease on any part of the stadium.