Munster Rugby has applied for funding to change the playing surface at Musgrave Park from a natural grass surface to a 4G artificial pitch.
The province has lodged a sports’ capital grant application with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to fund the long-term project, which would see the playing surface at the Cork venue altered in phase one of the latest stadium upgrade.
The Musgrave Park pitch is currently regarded as one of the top playing surfaces in the PRO12, but the change to 4G surface would see Munster follow the lead of Glasgow Warriors and Cardiff Blues.
Phase two of the proposed ground regeneration will include the construction of a new gym to cater for the needs of Munster’s underage teams in the area, and according to Philip Quinn, Head of Finance and Operations in Munster Rugby, they expect to hear about their funding application before the end of the summer.
“In terms of the long-term strategy here in Cork, the first thing to note is that Cork is huge... it’s vital in the overall success of Munster Rugby,” Quinn said on Munster Rugby’s State of Play update.
“We have opened the High Performance Centre in Limerick so we have to remain engaged here in Cork. We are looking at a long-term project for a potential upgrade of the stadium again.
“Phase one of that would be the installation of a 4G pitch on the main pitch. The second part is to then look at building a gym here. We need to service our underage structures here in the province.”
In 2015 Munster reopened the newly developed Musgrave Park, boasting a new 3,500 seater stand as well as covered terracing, which brought the overall capacity of the ground to 9,500.
But according to Quinn "financial constraints" and the need to finance the rebuilding of Thomond Park mean the majority of the province’s games will remain at the Limerick stadium.
“At the moment we play four PRO12 matches in Cork. The issue of playing more than that comes down to capacity. If we were to move a match from Limerick it would cost us money. There are financial constraints facing us at the moment.
“It is something we always look at, we never rule it out. We look at the attendance each season and see how we can adapt the following year.
“When we are compared to other provinces you don’t hear the likes of Ulster and Leinster being spoken about with financial deficit compared to Munster over the last few years. We have been lucky we have been able to record a financial surplus for the coming year ending June 2017.
“The major difference between us and other provinces is that when did a redevelopment we sold just under 3,000 10-year tickets. Without those 10-year ticket holders the redevelopment (of Thomond Park) would not have happened.
“That brought in €15 million. That was crucial to be able to fund the development, and that was €15 million out of our operation income that we literally put into our capital development.
“The outcome on the other side then is that for every match that we play at Thomond Park we have 3,000 tickets where we have no income coming in for it. That takes about 1.5 million a year out of our annual turnover that has been put into the capital project.”
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