Wednesday 12 December 2018

St Patrick's Athletic unveil plans for 12,000-seater 'Richmond Arena' with shopping complex and housing in plan

Stephen Bennett

THE dream of a brand new state-of-the-art stadium in Inchicore could soon become a reality for League of Ireland club St Patrick’s Athletic if the ambitions of owner Garret Kelleher and club’s board are realised.

The Saints are ready to launch proposals for a new focal point for the south Dublin town - named the Richmond Arena - which will include a shopping complex, community facilities, underground parking... with a brand new 12,000-seater UEFA Category 3 stadium, quite literally, the cherry on the top.

St Pat’s have consulted with O’Muire Smyth Architects and Swiss stadium specialists, HRS, over a design for the redevelopment of the St Michael's Estate area in Inchicore, which lies just a kick-out from the Saints’ current home of Richmond Park.

Dublin City Council will this year announce plans for the regeneration of the area, and St Pat’s are hopeful that their proposal will get the green light.

The plan will also includes housing adjacent to the complex.

St Pat’s president Tom O’Mahony revealed to The Herald that the plan has received “positive” feedback from local councillors and TDs.

“We believe that the proposals would deliver the housing that Dublin City Council needs, it would deliver a stadium and it would be a unique stadium in an Irish context, although some models of this do exist in Europe,” said O’Mahony.

“It would be a stadium on top of a shopping centre.

“Everybody recognises that Inchicore needs redevelopment. There is no major shopping area in Inchicore. There is no major supermarket and there is no focal point to the area.

“There are limited community facilities and parking in the area is troublesome.

“This proposal brings everything together. There would be a major supermarket, one of the major chains would be in it. Whatever community facilities that Dublin City Council regard are the most important, and the indications to us are such facilities as a library, an indoor sports hall, possibly a small civic theatre would be part of the plan.

“We would be getting the site but we would be handing back to Dublin City Council fully fitted-out amenities, and we would be left with the shopping facilities with the stadium on top.

“There would also be space for 350 car parking spaces in the basement and on matchdays we can meet all the parking requirements including team buses, supporters buses which are required under UEFA regulations, they are all catered for. It could also accommodate tour buses for Richmond Barracks as well.

“It’s a great situation to have a blank sheet of paper and look at what’s needed.

“Our other option would be to try to redevelop Richmond Park itself, but because it’s not a blank sheet of paper and because it’s such a confined space, we would never have a chance of meeting UEFA Category 3 stadium requirements.

“We can do everything right with the Richmond Arena.

“There will be other proposals for Dublin City Council to consider, but we think this is a really unique plan. It would be wonderful for Inchicore and would transform the area and obviously be a huge transformation for St Pat’s.

“It would give us the most ultra-modern club stadium in the country. It would be something for the club to be very proud of, but also for Inchicore to be very proud of as well.”

St Pat’s believe that should their proposals be passed by Dublin City Council, they are confident that the new stadium would be completed by 2022.

“At this point we’re bringing this forward because we want people to be aware of it and we want to make sure that we have an opportunity to bid for whatever is going to happen,” O’Mahony states.

“If we are accepted as having the best proposal then we would enter detailed negotiations with Dublin City Council and we would then apply for planning permission and go through the planning process.

“We have spoken to TDs and councillors. It would be fair to say that we got quite a positive reponse from the people we have spoken to. They can definitely see the potential that it has to greatly improve the facilities available to the people in Inchicore and the help to meet the housing needs of the area.”

The proposed Richmond Arena, St Pat’s insist, will have corporate and conference facilities as part of the new build.

“We know that one of the things that militates against growing attendances in League of Ireland matches is the lack of facilities,” says O’Mahony.

“Somewhere to get a decent bite to eat, comfortable seating. Because this would be a brand new state-of-the-art stadium, it would tick every single one of those boxes.

“It would have all the facilities that fans could want. All seats covered and comfortable facilities.

“People might say ‘why do you need 12,000-seats when you’re only getting 2,000 at your matches?’ The answer to that is we know we’re not going to get 12,000 at every match but we believe that we can grow our attendances very substantially if we have a stadium like this to offer and then, when the big matches come and European matches, and other games like Ireland Under-21s and Women’s internationals, that we will fill the place.

“We want to grow our fanbase throughout west Dublin, and by having these facilities and playing attractive football, as we do, allied to having a brand new, comfortable stadium it is all designed to making the club more sustainable in the long run.

“It’s a case of ‘build it and they’ll come’ but certainly better facilities give you better crowds.”

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