Waterford GAA are planning to be the first county to commence major post-Covid stadium redevelopment work with the initial phase of a Walsh Park facelift due to commence in October.
Work on phase one, which would see a new roof, new seating and a revamped press area in the existing stand on the southern end of the ground and the erection of an uncovered stand on the northern end, has been put out to tender and officials hope they can get under way in around two months’ time.
A widening of the existing pitch, from its current 80 metres to 84 metres, is also planned.
“It’s gone to tender but there’s still a long way to go,” acknowledged Waterford GAA secretary Pat Flynn.
Their ambition to proceed at this point comes after Meath and Kildare suspended their plans to redevelop Páirc Tailteann in Navan and St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge in June.
All three projects will be in receipt of finance from the Government’s Large Scale Sports Infrastructure Fund which was laid out in January 2020, prior to Covid. In Waterford’s case that was €3.75m but it’s money they can only draw down on a phased basis.
Kildare set out their reasons for the suspension in June, citing rising construction inflation costs which they said were 30 to 40pc at the time.
They had sought tenders at the end of last year with a view to starting this summer but outlined how the war in Ukraine drove prices of steel and timber even higher.
Meath cited similar issues with a June county board meeting hearing how the hike in prospective costs was 40pc to 50pc since the original costing in 2019.
Waterford still have some issues to resolve and will meet with provincial council officials in a few weeks but Flynn acknowledged rising construction inflation is something they are not immune to either.
“It depends what way the tenders come in,” he said. “We had it costed but we don’t know what way it will go. We know there is going to be an increase but hopefully it won’t be too high.
“There is no major construction involved. For the uncovered stand it’s a matter of laying down on the back. We’d hope to have it completed within a six-month period.”
That would potentially leave Walsh Park ready for the start of the Munster hurling championship round robin next April when capacity would rise to 12,000 from its current 11,000 with 9,500 seats. The next phase would see new dressing-rooms, offices, ancillary facilities and some seating on the western side developed.
Since Covid, the GAA has been adopting a cautious approach to development work as it recovers from the financial hit it took across two years.
Louth GAA are also hoping to construct a new stadium in Dundalk but an initial €12m cost could be as high as €19m now due to construction inflation, a county board meeting last month heard. Meanwhile, the last hurdles opposing the redevelopment of Casement Park were cleared in late May.