Friday 28 November 2014

McKenna delight at 'huge' milestone after putting Croker back in black

Published 04/02/2014 | 02:30

GAA Director of Finance Tom Ryan, right, with GAA Stadium and Commercial Director Peter McKenna

The Croke Park stadium debt has been officially cleared after a rearrangement of outstanding money owed.

Croke Park stadium director Peter McKenna revealed the detail at the annual financial briefing.

It's a significant milestone. The redevelopment of Croke Park commenced over 20 years ago and has cost an estimated €285m during that cycle.

Some €109m came from state funding, but the rest has been funded by the GAA itself.

An existing €26.5m loan has now been reduced to just an internal €14.5m loan from central funds to the stadium, which officially clears the debt.

"We had various inter-company loans that we had with CLG (GAA) and a Bank of Ireland loan, so we retired all of that and we put it into one lump, which is an inter-company €14.5m loan," said McKenna.

He also explained how the Croke Park Hotel is now entirely owned by the GAA after investors were bought out in the last financial year.

"If you look at the movements on the balance sheet you'll see that it's €26.5m moved out and a net now of €14.5m as an internal, inter-company loan."

McKenna said the clearing of the debt in such a way was "huge" in a year that celebrated the 100th anniversary since the signing of the deeds of the land that is now Croke Park. He said he couldn't be sure if Croke Park had ever historically been debt-free.

The absence of any concerts left a €3m shortfall in the accounts on 2012 – when four concerts were staged – with an income of €2.23m, but that is for a 10-month period to bring the company that manages Croke Park into line with Association policy.

McKenna said when figures are presented "like for like" with the 12-month period for 2012 the difference was minimal and the return of €4m to Central Council was evidence of a solid year for the stadium, with stronger conference business and an 18pc increase on attendances at matches.

There were 64 matches in Croke Park in 2013 over 30 match days with 1.14 million attending making an average crowd of 37,000 per match. Over 100,000 visited the GAA museum.

McKenna has described the upcoming staging of four Garth Brooks concerts as a "Christmas present" that they didn't expect.

"We didn't know this would be in the pipeline. I think what was heartening about 2013 was that we didn't have a concert, but we still hit our numbers. I think that was very important."

He admitted the challenge provided by the Aviva Stadium across the city had "sharpened our game".

"On certain benchmarks we feel that we do a better job. On others we've got a lot to learn. Any competitor in the market makes you sharpen your tools.

"I would say it's been a great addition in that sense. The real beneficiaries are the people who are booking conferences for the venues.

"We're not in competition for games. I think it's been a great addition to the city."

McKenna said there have been no further negotiations about playing an American football NFL match in Croke Park since previous efforts to host the annual European match failed to get over the line when Wembley Stadium was chosen as the preferred venue.

Irish Independent

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