Saturday 24 March 2018

Stand up for the Casement Park men

An artist’s impression of the redeveloped Casement Park
An artist’s impression of the redeveloped Casement Park
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Being forced to scale back on the capacity of Casement Park from 40,000 to 38,000 and now to 34,500 wasn't what the GAA had in mind when it launched plans for the redevelopment of the west Belfast venue but the most important thing is that it actually goes ahead.

The planning process has brought a whole series of trials and tribulations but the project committee are confident that solutions have been found and that the first Ulster Championship games will be played in Casement by 2020.

Ironically, the reduction in the planned capacity is not without some benefits as it includes an 8,500-capacity covered terrace.

Standing areas have been out of fashion in new stadium designs worldwide for a long time for a number of reasons.

Violence among soccer hooligans played a big part in the move towards seated-only grounds while the economic reality that higher prices could be charged for seats was also a factor.

Still, many people like to stand at a game, as underlined by the popularity of Hill 16 among Dublin supporters, and no doubt the new terrace in Casement Park will prove equally popular among Ulster fans.

There have even been calls for a return to standing areas at English soccer grounds, with the Lib Dems making it part of their General Election manifesto last year. Not that it did them much good as they were virtually wiped out.

With the exception of finals, 26,000 seats will be more than enough for Ulster SFC games so the latest capacity reduction isn't all that important, especially if it speeds up the planning process.

A spanking new stadium in Belfast will be a huge boost to the GAA but will it make any difference to Antrim, which badly needs a boost in both codes?

Irish Independent

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