Board is ‘hopeful’ on key Páirc Uí Chaoimh land deal

CORK GAA officials admitted last night that their €30m-plus redevelopment plan for a state of the art Páirc Uí Chaoimh was still caught in a planning logjam – and has made little progress in the last 18 months.

However, County Board chairman Jerry O’Sullivan said he was confident that ongoing discussions with the City Council would produce positive results.

He admitted that there was no ‘Plan B’ in terms of an alternative proposal, but said he was hopeful of forward movement in the next month or two.

Acquiring additional lands alongside the stadium were vital to the phased redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh, including the construction of a two-tier stand and the establishment of a centre of excellence, county secretary Frank Murphy added.

While Board officials were not in a position to indicate the overall cost of their plans, Mr Murphy admitted that it could cost upwards of €30m.

Mr O’Sullivan, underlining the importance of being able to acquire the land (in the old Showgrounds), said that quite apart from their wish to modernise the stadium, it was in the interest of the business community in the city that the project would be able to proceed.

“It’s being discussed at the moment between City Council and ourselves,’’ he said at yesterday’s press briefing in Páirc Uí Rinn, when the Board’s Strategic and Vision Plan for the next five years was unveiled.

“There have been moves at Council level in recent weeks. We can’t discuss this in public because negotiations are on-going, but we would be hopeful there will be a move in the next month or two.

What they required was “a suitable amount of property to fulfil plans they have for the area,” he added. “We think it’s vital for the GAA obviously but also important for the city and business in Cork that we have a stadium that’s suitable for the second biggest city in the country – with proper facilities for our players and for everybody and with a centre of excellence.

However, the reality was that ‘unless and until’ they got that property, their hands were tied.

Asked if there was a ‘Plan B’ in the event of a negative response, he commented: “hopefully that won’t arise. We are very hopeful there will be a resolution to the situation.’’

Agreeing that Páirc Uí Chaoimh was the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the Association in Cork going forward, Mr O’Sullivan said they had every reason to be proud of their GAA heritage.

“We have the greatest supporters and the greatest number of players playing Gaelic games of any county in the country,’’ he commented. It was only natural that they would desire a state-of-the-art facility.

“Finance could be scarce but GAA people have always found money. We would be quite happy if we get the necessary amount of ground we will develop what we feel is necessary for the future of the GAA in Cork.’’ Meanwhile, Frank Murphy confirmed that the proposal to build a two-tier stand (on the site of the present covered stand) is “very much one of the first phases of the development that is intended.” He said it would incorporate the ancillary facilities that would be required for a centre of excellence.

“That is a key part of our development proposals and in common with the other centres of excellence throughout the country – as determined by Central Council – it would incorporate additional playing facilities. We do require the additional land for the purpose of developing a 4G (best available model) floodlit facility adjacent to Páirc Uí Chaoimh – and that Páirc Uí Chaoimh will have the facilities to back up that in terms of dressingrooms, gym, treatment rooms etc.’’

He explained that in addition to catering for the needs of all of their inter-county teams and development squads, these facilities would be available to clubs, schools and third-level colleges in the city and county.

The secretary pointed out that the GAA leadership had indicated they would be supportive of their plans for a centre of excellence, the Munster Council has designated Cork City as being the centre for the centre of excellence in Cork and grant-aid was in place.

“It is absolutely vital that we would not have a situation of duplication of facilities if were to have to go elsewhere away from Páirc Uí Chaoimh. We would (then) have to put into place all of these back-up facilities that are being provided for in the stadium.

“It is key that we gain additional land that had been basically ear-marked for quite some time by us and we have made representations in relation to it. And we are continuing strongly to press home to the City Council the importance of that being brought to fruition.’’

Murphy expressed the view that cost would not be ‘an inhibiting factor,’ explaining that it was likely the work would be carried out in phases, as opposed to a ‘wholesale development.’ And, just as the funding of Páirc Uí Chaoimh in the seventies was aided by the sale of land which the Board owned in Bishopstown, he revealed that there was property in the Board’s possession that they would hope to dispose of.

“It’s not the most favourable economic climate to be disposing of property but we do have land that is quite valuable. And we hope it would be a factor in the financing of redevelopment of the stadium.’’

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