In retrospect, the Bertie Bowl would have avoided the debacle.
Are we now becoming experts at grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory? Garth Brooks was scheduled to come to Dublin, initially to perform two concerts.
However, demand was so high that five concerts were arranged on successive nights, as 400,000 choose to come to Dublin to see him.
Now it’s all off and we are left wondering what happened. In the face of opposition from what are seen by many as nimbys and an attempt by local government to play at being Solomon by trying to please everyone, the concerts have been cancelled.
It could all have been so different. The benefit to the economy was estimated at €50m. Dublin and the surrounding areas were in for a bumper week. Flights and hotels were booked. Occupancy rates were set to explode. Excitement was palpable.
Undoubtedly at this point there are some who will wonder why we did not proceed with the Bertie Bowl. It would have avoided all of this hassle and this dent to our reputation and national pride. The Bertie Bowl, aka Stadium Ireland, was to be built in ‘virtually’ remote Abbotstown in Co Dublin, until the then Government decided it was going to cost far too much.
Instead, government backing and funding was given to the redevelopment of rugby headquarters, Lansdowne Road, in downtown Dublin into Aviva Stadium which opened in 2010.
However, at 51,700, the capacity is too small to accommodate the tens of thousands wishing to see even Irish international matches. Funding stadia did not just stop there. The then government also heavily supported the development of the GAA headquarters in Croke Park which was officially opened in March 2005.
The fact that a stadium has to pay its way should come as no surprise. To do so Croke Park also hosts conferences, parties, and concerts, particularly ones which require lots of seats, and even “foreign games”. Those who planned, funded and built the park would have known that clearly, and that would have included government and the local authority. To obtain the necessary cash flow it would need to operate all the hours god sends, if possible.
In a residential downtown area that’s not an attractive proposition. So a compromise had to be reached.
However, it’s no longer 2005, money is in short supply, and any chance to get it will be grabbed with both hands. When theconcert tickets started selling like hot cakes it must have looked like the promoters’ and the GAA’s Christmases had come all at once.
In the excitement of the potential upside for the region, the simple matter of the agreement to hold just three concerts a year was forgotten. A group of locals objected and Dublin City Council decided to grant licences for just three concerts, creating a tsunami of bad feeling and anger. It was further exacerbated when some locals decided to try to stop any concert from happening.
Ireland shoots itself in the foot again. Why? It would appear the rules regarding seeking local authority approval for such events is not fit for purpose. So what’s new? The net result is that economy will not get a much-needed fillip and 400,000 people are out of pocket. Let’s face it, we all stand to be losers in Brooksgate. Our reputation is in tatters.
We now need to ensure that it can never happen again, that is, if we are ever given the opportunity again. An eminently sensible solution for the future was suggested [in the last few days; namely that any concert which had the potential to sell more than 10,000 tickets must be pre-approved before tickets go on sale.
We really cannot afford to look proverbial gift horses in the mouth and we’ve just let one get away.
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