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?19m windfall as Portlaoise club sell home ground

THE PORTLAOISE GAA club has pulled off one the biggest commercial coups in the history of the GAA by selling their current grounds for a staggering ?19million.

There have been many reports of possible sales of town-centre GAA grounds in recent times, but Portlaoise are the first to have actually done the deal for their 18-acre club headquarters located just behind O'Moore Park in Portlaoise.

Not alone have they secured a record price for a GAA ground, but Portlaoise have also moved quickly to acquire new facilities by spending ?6million to purchase a 38-acre site about a mile away.

On this site, along with an adjoining 16-acres which Portlaoise hope to purchase from Laois County Council, the club will spend no less than ?10 million in providing what will surely be the best facilities of any GAA club in Ireland.

They plan to develop five full-sized playing pitches, three of which will be floodlit; a full-size astro turf pitch, fenced and floodlit; a training area including a running track; hurling & football skills walls; a walking track around the perimeter of the grounds; two spectator stands; parking for 300 cars and a children's play area.

Internal facilities will include 12 state of the art dressing rooms; a sports hall; bar, lounge & restaurant facilities; two handball courts; a games room and a fully fitted leisure centre to include swimming pool, gym, aerobics area, and many other facilities.

But perhaps the best indication of the efficiency with which Portlaoise have so far approached and expedited this huge operation is contained in this comment from the Relocation Development subcommittee: "We are satisfied that the proposed redevelopment cost figure of ?10m is accurate and more importantly can be adhered to even if we have to cut our cash to suit the measure. This will ensure that we will have sufficient capital from this deal, about ?3m, to invest in the future of the club. The income from this investment will be sufficient to cover the day-to-day running of the new facility."

And the estimated timeframe to complete this massive project is a mere two years from now.

I have maintained for a long time that many of the best brains in GAA administration prefer to concentrate on club activity rather than going into county board or higher politics.

There are numerous example of this in Dublin GAA in particular and in other places around Ireland especially in the six counties. Now we have another in Portlaoise.

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While several County Boards are reported to be 'thinking' about selling their grounds this club has actually gone out and done the deal for the betterment of the people of Portlaoise.

The men who carried out this marvellous coup for Portlaoise GAA were Vincent Dowling (chairman), Peter O'Neill, John Hanniffy, Teddy Fennelly and Jim Gaynor.

Eugene McGee

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