Leeside stadium to be 'one of the best'
It may host some of the world's best rugby teams in 2023 but, for now, the priority for the Páirc Uí Chaoimh redevelopment team is to have the stadium ready for next year's Munster football final on the first Sunday in July.
"We're on target - it's going to happen. Everything will be completed by June 18 next," said Bob Ryan, chairman of the Stadium Steering Committee after a media tour of the €80 million facility was completed yesterday.
Location is about the only feature it has in common with the old stadium, which was completed at a cost of £1.3 (€1.65) million in 1976. The latest chapter in Páirc Uí Chaoimh's history embraces a 45,000-capacity arena, complete with most of the facilities available at modern stadiums all over the world.
However, that does not include corporate boxes which, for a combination of practical and philosophical considerations, were omitted from the design.
"It wasn't part of what we wanted to do - not part of our psyche," said John Mullins, chairman of the Stadium Business Committee.
The package does, however, include 2,000 premium level 10-year tickets which were launched last night at a cost of €6,500 each.
Together with selling naming rights, a deal which is currently under exploration, it completes an impressive financial arrangement which could see the stadium debt-free on opening day.
Almost €64 million has already been secured from Government (€30 million), Central Council (€20 million) and Munster Council (€3.75 million) while Cork County Board paid €10 million from its own resources.
Bob Ryan insisted that contrary to suggestions, the new stadium would not reduce the amount allocated to county teams and other games activity in Cork.
"Not one cent less will be spent on our teams. In fact, this will be a revenue generator to help our finances into the future. Páirc Uí Chaoimh has tremendous potential across a number of areas," he said.
The new stadium will have a capacity of 45,000, with the stands accommodating 21,000 (South 13,000; North 8,000) and the terraces 24,000 in an equal split between the Blackrock and City Ends.
In addition to the main pitch, most of which was seeded early last month, a second all-weather full-size pitch in also included. It will be used mainly for inter-county training, club and college games.
Both pitches will be floodlit, with the main one becoming the first in Ireland to feature LED lighting, now regarded as a market leader around the world.
Four spacious dressing-rooms will be welcomed by players, especially those who had experienced the miserably cramped conditions that applied for 40 years.
Two tunnels will allow teams to access and exit the playing area separately, thereby eradicating the risk of flashpoints which existed in the narrow channel in the old tunnel.
There's no dedicated parking area in the immediate vicinity of the stadium, which will leave patrons having to make their own arrangements in the city and its environs.
"We're no different to a lot of stadiums. I know lots of people who park out of Dublin and get the Luas or bus into Croke Park. We have lots of fine car parks in Cork city," said Ryan.
The stadium committee is convinced that the 2,000 premium tickets will be sold, having already received a lot of enquiries. Special bank deals are being put in place for people to want to take out loans for the €6,500 tickets.
Planning permission for the stadium includes two concerts per year, an opening the board plan to exploit as often as possible. Mullins said a top priority was to have the facility generating revenue at a number of levels.
"It's very important to have that and we have the facilities to make it work. Businesses in Cork noticed the big drop-off in the city since the stadium was closed," he said.
County Board chairman Ger Lane predicted that when the public experienced the new stadium they would be delighted with the comfort as well as the range of facilities.
"It will be one of the best to be found anywhere," he said.