Waterford County Board chairman Paddy Joe Ryan has claimed the GAA and the Munster Council “would love to” demolish the Gaelic Grounds and Fitzgerald Stadium.
Ryan made his comments alongside county secretary Pat Flynn yesterday as they revealed plans to redevelop Walsh Park into a €5m, 16,000-capacity stadium in the space of 12 months from the time planning permission is granted.
“The Munster Council and the GAA, there are four big stadiums in Munster now; they’d love to knock two of them,” Ryan told WLR FM’s Déise Today programme. “They’d love to keep Thurles and Páirc Uí Chaoimh but the other two, they’re not getting used. Limerick close down their stadium for four or five months of the year to get a rates revaluation.
“I was in Wexford Park last Saturday and the capacity is 23,000 and the county treasurer told me they only put in over 17,000 there once ever.”
The Irish Examiner understands numerous objections to Walsh Park’s reconstruction are expected from residents and, as was previously reported, it’s highly unlikely the venue will host their two Munster SHC matches next year, with Thurles looking the most obvious choice for their ‘home’ provincial SHC fixtures.
Flynn said they have spoken to many in the stadium’s vicinity and have heard “genuine concerns” mostly regarding plans for a roof on the northern bank of the venue and how it may affect light. That blueprint has since been amended to reflect the residents’ opinions.
“The current stand will be revamped, we’ll have media areas as well and new seating,” said Flynn. “The western bank will be terraced with covered accommodation. On the northern bank will be uncovered seating. The city end will be removed and there will be a small bit of seating there and we’ll be removing the bank on that part. We’ll be demolishing the dressing rooms and offices to allow for circulation around there and new shops and toilets facilities. A new building will replace it encompassing four dressing rooms as well as medical rooms, referees’ rooms and offices.”
In light of criticism from Tony Browne in the Irish Examiner this week and Michael Duignan last weekend about the unavailability of Walsh Park this year, Flynn said they were “backed into a corner” due to safety reasons and feasibility issues.
They reiterated that Páirc Uí Chaoimh had been their preference for the Tipperary game only for it to be ruled out because of the Cork City Marathon.
Asked why Fraher Field wasn’t considered as the principal stadium in the county, Ryan said they were told it would cost €25m to redevelop the Dungarvan venue while he cited 60% of the county’s population are living in the greater area of Waterford city.
Ryan argued the board were steadfast in their determination to pay off their debts, which would have prevented them from redeveloping Walsh Park up to recently.
He also hit out at criticism of the county board on social media, and said if it continues nobody will put themselves forward for volunteer positions on the executive in the future.
Ryan also revealed in his bid to prevent the new championship structure being introduced this year that he lobbied the ex-GAA presidents to vote against the round-robin provincial system.
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