Monday 19 February 2018

Longford facing €2m cost to fix Pearse Park subsidence

County can avoid rebuild of two stands which could have set them back €7m as controversy nears end

Longford secretary Peter O'Reilly:
Longford secretary Peter O'Reilly: "Initially the thinking was that complete rebuild was the way to go with this." Stock photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Longford GAA is facing a significantly reduced cost to get two stands at Pearse Park fully operational again, it has emerged.

The bill for refixing the West and South Stands at the county's GAA headquarters now looks set to be €2million, not the €7million for a complete rebuild that was on the cards this time last year.

The West Stand has been closed since the middle of 2015 and the reduced capacity has forced important games like the 2015 qualifier against Kildare and the 2016 Leinster Championship match against Offaly out of the venue.

Issues with subsidence forced the closure on health and safety grounds and similar problems emerged with the smaller South Stand.

The initial projected cost for correcting problems with subsistence rose from €300,000 to €3m and then €7m when new offices and turnstiles at the back of the South Stand were factored in.

Those higher costs were predicated on demolition and rebuild which was initially the preferred option in 2015.

Rebuilding as opposed to refixing were the terms of reference that the firm initially charged with assessing design costs came up with.

But a second firm has taken into consideration a refix where the steel structures or pre-cast concrete units will not have to be replaced.

The GAA's national facilities and health and safety committee were due to meet yesterday to approve the new plan which will go before the GAA's financial management committee in the coming weeks.

Longford secretary Peter O'Reilly explained that refixing the problems wasn't priced two years ago.

"Initially the thinking was that complete rebuild was the way to go with this. We were working on that basis.

"And the €7m figure included rebuilding the Longford GAA offices at the back of the South Stand and new turnstiles for that part of the ground."

O'Reilly said the most recent cost of a rebuild of both stands was "in the same ball park" as the previous one, around €5m without the offices and turnstiles incorporated.

He also suggested that if the repair bill had been €3m instead of €2m then a rebuild might have been more feasible.

At one stage Longford even investigated moving to a green-field site and incorporating a training facility but a €15m cost for that plan was deemed too prohibitive.

Pearse Park has been a strategically well-placed venue for the GAA that hosted the 2008 All-Ireland minor final replay between Tyrone and Mayo in 2008.

The new stands re-opened in time for the Longford-Dublin Leinster quarter-final in 2006 which Dublin won by two points in front of a 16,000 crowd.

Since then the capacity has been reduced to around 9,000 following the Slattery report and currently stands at 5,500.

The chairman of the GAA's national facilities and health and safety committee Pat Teehan was present at a specially convened county board meeting in Longford to see the new proposal unveiled.

O'Reilly believes that if the funding is approved centrally, the problems can be resolved in time for the start of next season.

A number of other Leinster counties in the region are in the process of embarking on major redevelopments of their main grounds.

Meath is to seek clearance from its clubs to apply for planning permission for a redeveloped Páirc Tailteann that is aiming at a new 5,000-seater stand in phase one, while Kildare hope to have a new clubhouse in St Conleth's Park, part of phase one in their redevelopment, completed this year followed by a new stand costing more than €3m by 2020. The new stand would cater for 2,630 spectators.

Dublin County Board is also hoping to complete a deal in the coming weeks to purchase the Spawell just off the M50 but developing a new stadium on the site is understood to be a long-term aim.

Irish Independent

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