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Sunday 20 October 2019

'The amount spent way exceeded what people thought' - Cost of redvelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh soars to almost €110m

An aerial view of Páirc Ui Chaoimh. Photo: Sportsfile
An aerial view of Páirc Ui Chaoimh. Photo: Sportsfile Newsdesk Newsdesk

The cost of redeveloping Páirc Uí Chaoimh has spiralled to almost €110m according to a leading GAA executive.

Croke Park Commercial and Stadium Director Peter McKenna made the revelations in an interview in today's Irish Examiner.

The €110m figure is way above the €86m total estimated when works were completed in 2017, €30m of which came in the form of state funding.

The GAA have appointed a management team to oversee the running of the stadium, a budget has been set for 2019 and a three-year strategic plan is in place.

“It became clear in the middle of the year that the amount spent on the stadium way exceeded what people thought,” McKenna said.

“We’re probably close to €110m as a final cost, and what was the ability to pay that?

“As an Association we needed to take a far closer look at exactly what the position was - not so much ‘why is this happening’ as ‘where are we, and what can we do to stem the problem?’ That was the genesis of it.

“In order to stem the debt or put a shape to it, we needed an experienced management team involved.

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“I think if it wasn’t an aligned set-up, you’d be talking about a receivership or something like that.

“There are a lot of positives there. We’re looking at premium tickets, the hospitality business, and there’s huge potential there.

“We need to bring the synergies from Croke Park to bear here, but this is a 10- to 15-year set-up. It’s not going to be solved in a hurry."

On Staid Cois Laoi, the company tasked with running the redeveloped Páirc Uí Chaoimh, he added: “We couldn’t bring the board of directors together in July or August because there was no clarity on the total out-turn.

“(GAA director-general) Tom Ryan and I went through this in detail — we couldn’t ask people to serve on a board if the company was going to be insolvent. That’s illegal.

“We needed to make sure there was a solvency solution, and that took a little time because there’s a lot of work involved, but we had our first meeting a few weeks ago.

“At that first board meeting we laid out the problem, where the funding streams were going to come from, how we’re going to pay that down, so the company is now stable, albeit with a large debt.

“We’re working on a business plan, which will take some time.”

He also confirmed that the Páirc Uí Chaoimh surface was in need of a lot of work too and would need to be replaced.

 “That will have to be replaced. The surface is very unstable, as you may have seen earlier in the year, so we’ll have to do some fairly aggressive remedial work there.

“I think it should have started earlier and we may not have time to get it done because of the winter weather.

“If you’re importing turf from either Holland or Lancashire — the two main sources — that may be subject to frost in January and February, so we may be as well to keep the surface we have and do that work aggressively later, in 12-18 months’ time."

He also said that the issue of Pairc Ui Chaoimh's debt would not impact on team expenses and funding.

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