THE economic downturn has forced the Munster Branch of the IRFU to postpone plans for a new state-of-the-art 6,500 capacity stand at Musgrave Park.
Instead, the Branch is to seek Cork City Council approval to install a temporary 4,000-seat structure to meet competition requirements until such time as it can raise the necessary funds needed to go ahead with original plans.
Munster, through its development committee, had hoped to raise sufficient funds through the sales of up to 1,000 seven-year ticket packages to allow work start on the original structure, but in the current climate there appears to be resistance in the market to spending between €2,500 to €4,000 (three categories) on rugby tickets.
Development committee chairman Niall O’Driscoll, a former president of the Branch, explained: “It’s a difficult time, you’re not going to get finance from banks and you’re not going to get support from the IRFU to support borrowings from banks in the current economic climate.
“Therefore, we’ve got to go out to get packages of tickets sold to bring more money on the table. We do have funding but we need more and as much as we possibly can before the finance committee will allow the original development to go ahead.”
He explained the necessity to maximise revenue from Magners League games in Cork, and pointed out that the current stand catered for only 430 people that produced little or no revenue.
“To participate in Magners League rugby you’ve got to provide seated accommodation, so as an interim measure the plan is for a temporary stand to go in there for probably a 12 month period, installed sometime around June or July.”
The structure would, he said, be self-financing in that seated accommodation generates considerably more income than terrace tickets and the investment would be very modest compared to the €6m-€7m needed to provide the permanent structure.
Mr O’Driscoll insisted the development committee would plough ahead with fund-raising plans in a bid to put more money on the table but he expects now that tenders for the original stand would probably not need to go out for about six more months; however, the Branch is conscious that the project will have to move ahead within the time frame allowed by the planning laws.
A 4,000-seater stand will bring the capacity of Musgrave Park to 10,000 — still 2,500 short of their medium term goal. Munster’s long term plans include development of the other side of the ground with a similarly sized 6,000-seater structure and enhanced terracing that would eventually bring the capacity of the ground close to 20,000.
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