And the regenerated 45,000-capacity Páirc Uí Chaoimh GAA stadium in Cork is set to deliver an immediate €25m boost to the local economy this weekend.
While thousands of GAA fans flocked to the venue last night for its historic first game, a premier intermediate hurling clash between Blarney and Valley Rovers, GAA chiefs said more than 42,000 stand tickets have already been sold for its showcase games this weekend: the All Ireland hurling qualifiers between Clare and Tipperary on Saturday, and the Waterford-Wexford clash on Sunday.
“Obviously these are major fixtures in their own right but, from the feedback we are getting from around the country, there is certainly a big Pairc Ui Chaoimh curiosity factor at play,” Cork County GAA Board chairman Ger Lane said yesterday.
“People are excited at the prospect of coming to a brand new stadium and they will not be disappointed.”
He defended charging €10 for over-16s to attend last night’s first game.
“It’s a country championship game. Everyone sees the expense we’ve had here in Pairc Ui Chaoimh so I don’t think €10 is too much,” he said.
Builders will be working round-the-clock for the next 48 hours to ensure everything is in place for the weekend games.
Mr Lane said the new stadium, the only one in Ireland which will be part of a public park, is set to deliver a huge economic boost, not just to the city, but the wider region.
“Every full event here in the stadium is probably worth about €12m to the local economy,” he said.
Bob Ryan, the chairman of the stadium development group steering committee, said the economic impact will be felt across the region.
“There isn’t a hotel bed to be had in Cork this weekend,” he said. “I’ve spoken to people who are travelling to the matches and they are staying as far west as Macroom, so places like Macroom, Bandon, Kinsale will all benefit from this development.”
He said it was a proud day for the GAA, both locally and nationally, to unveil one of the “most modern sports grounds in Western Europe”.
“Anybody who knew the old stadium, and who comes in now and sees what we have now — it’s a huge transformation. It’s mind-blowing,” he said.
“We can facilitate any size of game up to an All Ireland semi final. And we’ve sold out three Ed Sheeran concerts next May.”
Both officials pledged to continue working with local residents on traffic management issues.
Fans have been advised to park in the city, avail of Q-Park car park deals, and walk and bus to the stadium.
Barriers will be erected at the entrances to local estates, with access for residents only.
Wide circulation areas around the stands and terraces should make it much more comfortable for fans outside the ground.
There are 74 turnstiles, and 20 exits with an emergency exit time of 6.5-minutes.
Fans with seats in the main, 13,000-capacity south stand, the city or Blackrock terraces, each with a 12,000 capacity, will arrive via Monahan Rd onto a wide paved concourse, close to a full-size 4G flood-lit all-weather pitch, and will be ushered through turnstiles up onto the level 1 concourse and into the stands.
The south stand has three levels, including the 2,238-seat premium level. GAA bosses said sales of its 10-year €6,500 premium tickets are going well and should improve once the stadium opens.
The stadium also features a conference centre, 220 spaces for disabled fans and their companions, four 35-space dressing rooms with under-floor heating, physio, warm-up, drug-testing, referee, and first aid rooms.
It has provision for Hawk-Eye for big games, a 60-space press section, a press conference room, and other media facilities. Team buses and officials will drive into a tunnel on ground level under the south stand, taking them directly to the door of the dressing rooms.
Fans bound for the 8,000-capacity and now-covered north stand will arrive via the Marina, and through turnstiles under the stand.
The spectator facilities include a sports merchandise shop, 12 sweet shops, 13 bars, and seven hot food kiosks spread across various levels.
Menus on display at the outlets yesterday showed a plain burger from The Butcher’s Grill outlets will cost €5 and an extra €1.50 for cheese and bacon, with hot dog meal deals from €10.50 and kids’ meal deals (chicken bites, chips, juice, and fruit) for €5.
The Pizza Bar outlets will charge €7 for a meatball sub, a portion of chips will cost €4, hotdogs are €5.50, and a 9” pizza will be €9.
A bottle of beer is priced €6, with minerals, tea, or coffee at €2.50 each.
The stadium also has wi-fi.
Pitch in ‘peak condition’ to handle GAA matches
Twelve months ago it was a building site, but the pitch at the heart of the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh is now amongst the finest in Ireland.
Stephen Forrest of Cork-based Turf Tech, who designed and built it from scratch, said he has timed its maintenance so that it will be in peak condition for the weekend’s All Ireland qualifiers.
“It was huge honour to get to work on this project. It is the first full-size pitch I’ve built.
“It is almost at Croke Park standard,” he said.
Working closely with the county board on the design brief, Mr Forrest and his team began pitch construction last September, digging out all the old soil, shipping in special sandy loam soil, and planting a specific sports-grade species of grass.
He nurtured the grass as it took root and grew through last winter and spring, and was busy yesterday with the last few manicures.
The pitch has a new drainage system, with a fully automatic irrigation system, including pitch-side sprinklers and on-pitch sprinklers, fed from harvested rainwater.
The pitch is floodlit to 1,500 lux, and will be maintained with special on-pitch power lights.
He said the pitch surface is in peak condition to handle hurling and football over the summer months, and that he has no concerns about it withstanding the stress of concert goers.
“There are some great pitch protection systems out there now,” he said.
And given that the stadium is part of Ireland’s bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, Mr Forrest said the pitch has been designed so that it can, in time, be adapted to cope with the stresses of rugby.
Meet the men behind the newly renovated Pairc Uí Chaoimh
Stephen Forrest, Steven O'Brien and Stephen Calnan spoke to theat the opening day of the regenerated Pairc Uí Chaoimh in Cork.
Cork senior footballer Mark Collins described the pitch as "top class".
Cork GAA stars, Damien Cahalane and Mark Collins, spoke to theat the historic opening day of the regenerated Pairc Uí Chaoimh in Cork.