Croke Park revamp put on hold due to funding shortfall

THE GAA is not in a financial position to complete the redevelopment of Croke Park in the short term, even in the event of receiving planning permission to retain the Hill 16 end as a terrace.

With the balance of the Government grant still outstanding, Director-General Liam Mulvihill warns in his annual report that the association could not sustain borrowings in the order of €90 million. Currently, their indebtedness stands at €53m (which will incur interest charges of €4.2m a year), while projects costing up to €36m have yet to be undertaken.

“The overall intention is to hold the level of borrowing at a maximum €70m and even this level of indebtedness will stretch us to the limit for a considerable time,” he writes.

Mulvihill points out the association would not have committed itself to such expenditure if they had any idea the promised funding would not materialise. Now they face huge borrowings at a time when they need to spend considerably more money on Dublin and other urban areas on games development projects.

On the matter of the Government grant, Sean McCague confirmed they had a letter in their possession, signed by the Taoiseach, setting out the schedule of payments. As to whether or not this would be legally binding, the president said they had not explored that avenue, nor did they intend to do so.

“We entered into an agreement in good faith and so did the Government. But circumstances changed and we have to accept that,” he said.

Mulvihill also said the association was still interested in being involved in a National Stadium.

In response to criticism that the counties do not get sufficient financial help from Croke Park, Mulvihill quoted figures showing €7.6m was ploughed back at local level, excluding grants for grounds.

He points out that while the completion of the Hogan Stand phase took the overall capacity of the stadium to 81,300, it had to be limited to 79,500 due to planning restrictions. That includes 10,500 seats on the premium and box level and 5,200 long-term tickets sold to clubs at the start of the redevelopment (several hundred of which are held by people who supported the scheme launched in 1959 to pay for the first Hogan Stand). It meant only 63,600 tickets were available for general distribution last year.

Stadium director Peter McKenna was asked about the cost of opening the stadium for a day. He revealed that with an average ticket price of 20 and a 20-fixtures season, they would need an attendance of 32,930 to break even.

The recent Dublin/Armagh league game attracted a crowd of 54,412 and incurred variable costs of 154,000 and fixed costs of 122,000.

He believes the debt on Croke Park can be cleared in 12 years based on the generation of finance from the reselling of corporate boxes and premium level seats on the Cusack side in 2005.

*The president expressed the hope full discussions between the Dublin County Board and the SRC-appointed committee headed by Munster chairman Christy Cooney can get underway as quickly as possible.

*Ten candidates have been nominated for the (two) positions of trustee at next month’s GAA Congress in Belfast.

They include ex-Kildare secretary Seamus Aldridge, the former Leinster chairman who stood in the election for president last year.

The others are Offaly chairman Brendan Ward, Ciaran McDermott (Sligo), Dublin Central Council delegate Gerry Brady, ex-Connacht chairman Padraig Brennan (Roscommon), Senator Rory Kiely (Limerick), Pat Dunny (Kildare), Paddy Muldoon (Mayo), Noel Morris (Tipperary) and Jimmy Treacy (Tyrone).

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