Monday 11 December 2017

Mayo in crisis over €11.6m debt on McHale Park redevelopment

A general view of the redeveloped McHale Park in Castlebar
A general view of the redeveloped McHale Park in Castlebar
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

THE MAYO County Board has two weeks to come up with fresh ideas to help alleviate the massive debt incurred by the redevelopment of McHale Park in Castlebar.

This follows the publication of financial details relating to the redevelopment of the stadium at Monday night's meeting of the county board.

In recent weeks, the main lending institute involved has been in contact directly with the GAA hierarchy, who also provided substantial loans to help finance the redevelopment.

The GAA top brass have in turn been in touch with Mayo officials, who have been encouraged to put in place a more urgent action plan to fund-raise.

Spokesman Aidan McLoughlin was adamant yesterday that an €11.6m debt is still manageable, despite the growing pressure to start reducing it.

Up to now, the Mayo County Board has been repaying mostly interest on three loans totalling €6m with the lending institution in question. But there is now a requirement to start repaying more principle and that will squeeze already hard-pressed clubs in the county even more.

To date, they have repaid €534,062 in principle and €784,000 in interest.

A further loan of €4.5m from the GAA is also outstanding. The GAA had already given Mayo a grant of €5m for the redevelopment which has turned McHale Park into one of the most modern grounds in the country.

So far, Mayo has spent €16.637m on the redevelopment, according to figures released at the board meeting.

And, worryingly, there is another €1.6m of bills still outstanding.

Just over €1m of this is owed to the main contractor, with the rest due for legal and architectural fees. That brings the total cost for redeveloping the stadium to over €18m.

Some of this relates to the proposed development of a media tower on the opposite side to the main stand which has run into planning difficulties. There were also difficulties with the floodlighting of the stadium, which have since been resolved.

Mayo officials took the decision to lay out the situation to their clubs in an effort to generate more momentum with fundraising.

"None of the figures that have been put into the public domain were known before," said McLoughlin.

"Those who've loaned the money to us have been more than fair to us with terms and conditions. But we have to make people aware that we need to show more urgency with our fundraising efforts, and we will be coming up with a new plan in the next two weeks."

Croke Park officials are known to be concerned at the situation facing the Mayo County Board.

It is estimated that servicing the debt on McHale Park is to rise from about €400,000 to almost €1m per annum once capital repayments on the 15-year loan are taken into account.

According to the figures, Mayo have put some €1.137m of their own money into the redevelopment. Efforts to fund-raise have focused on selling seats in the stand, season tickets and a draw which involves clubs selling between 50 and 70 tickets at €100 each.

They have been helped by the recent inking of a deal for the naming rights to the stadium by sportswear retail chain Elverys, who are based in Mayo.

Irish Independent

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