Páirc Uí Chaoimh can begin its life debt-free

The appointment of a stadium manager for the redeveloped Páirc Uí Chaoimh is the next significant step in the venue’s reinvention, one “we have to get right”, says the chair of the Cork County Board’s stadium business committee.
Páirc Uí Chaoimh can begin its life debt-free

Speaking after the media tour and briefing at the stadium yesterday, former head of Bord Gáis Eireann John Mullins referred to Croke Park stadium director Peter McKenna and Aviva stadium boss Martin Murphy when discussing the new position which will have to be filled at the Leeside venue.

“We’ve drawn up a job description and there have been conversations with a recruitment agency while, as you might expect, a number of people have been in touch and sent in CVs in advance of that happening.

“We’ve recruited salespeople for the Priority Club and so on, so the next step after the launch of our ticket scheme last night is to ramp up on mainstream management, and getting a brochure together on the conference facilities and how those can be used in particular.”

Mullins pointed out that in the cases mentioned both McKenna and Murphy were brought in ahead of the full commissioning of the stadia they now manage, adding that there is a relative shortage of qualified candidates in this field.

“We have to get this right, and in all our conversations on this topic we’ve mentioned people like Peter (McKenna) and Martin (Murphy).

“These guys were brought in ahead of the commissioning of the stadium, and generally with these guys you need people who know every nook and cranny of the stadium they’re managing, and that’s what we want.

“So we have a job description and we’ve had conversations with recruiters about this, because obviously these guys don’t grow on trees. A lot of the people who do well in this space are ex-army guys, who have a background in logistics and similar areas, which gives them an advantage when it comes to these challenges.

“But we’ll certainly have somebody running the stadium business in its own right.”

Mullins added the naming rights opportunity is a “live option” for businesses, comparing the new Pairc Ui Chaoimh favourably with the RDS, Leinster Rugby’s home ground, which recently secured a lucrative naming rights deal with Laya Healthcare.

“In terms of naming rights, this is actively available - we’d like to have the place branded for its opening, instead of branding it and then re- branding it again later.

“It makes a lot of sense to have that done ahead of the stadium opening in June, so basically it’s live, a live option for businesses out there and the feelers have been put out - and this is available for the next 10 years.

“We’re all well aware of the deal Laya Healthcare struck with Leinster Rugby for naming rights for the RDS (believed to be worth €8 million over 10 years).

“If that’s the going rate for a 25,000-seater venue, I don’t see why a 46,000-capacity venue which will host at least 10 marquee inter-county events and a couple of major concerts per year - plus all that goes with those events - wouldn’t command a fee at that level or above.”

Last night the ‘Priority at Páirc Uí Chaoimh’ ticketing scheme was launched in the Rochestown Park Hotel, another step in the process of funding the new stadium, and the stadium redevelopment committee is bullish about the chances of the stadium beginning its functional life debt-free.

“All of the commitments up to now have been met in terms of cashflow,” said Mullins.

“The critical piece here now is the tickets, which we’ve tried to make available to genuine GAA people in packages timed over five years.

“A lot of these tickets have been pre-sold, too. We have a list of guys who are saying they want a ticket on the 45-metre line or halfway or whatever - the big headache we’re going to have is in dispersing these.

“We have a sales team in place to sell those tickets, and if we do so, then combined with a name sponsor and so on, this stadium will hopefully begin its life debt-free - and not many stadia around the world begin their lives debt-free.”

Mullins revealed corporate boxes were considered for the new stadium but discarded for a number of reasons. Those included considerations of space but also the fact such boxes are less attractive in the modern context.

“Businesspeople are quite sensitive about being photographed or mentioned as being in a corporate box. It’s run against the attractiveness of corporate boxes as a result.”

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