Three cheers for stadium funding announcement
The news that the Northern Ireland Executive has approved a £138m package to upgrade our regional stadia has been met with cheers from the football, rugby and Gaelic fraternities.
The funds will be used to upgrade regional stadiums at Windsor Park, Ravenhill and Casement Park, and take forward sub regional stadium developments for football. This package is broken down as follows: Football £61.4million, Gaelic Games £61.4million and Rugby £14.7million.
Sports Minister Nelson McCausland said: “This major investment is great news for our economy and in particular for our local construction sector.
“Modern, fit-for-purpose and spectator-friendly stadium facilities can only enhance the sports' standing and will assist the development of the three sports from grassroots right up to international levels.
“Although our primary focus has been on the development of the main regional stadiums it is plain that football clubs in Northern Ireland face substantial difficulties due to systemically low and dwindling attendances largely due to the poor facilities at grounds. This needs to be rectified and I am particularly pleased that the Executive have endorsed proposals to tackle this deficit as a priority, alongside the development of the three main stadiums.”
The Irish FA declared itself “delighted” with the funding over a six year period, which will cover the redevelopment of Windsor Park, alongside a new national training centre, and upgrades to a number of stadia at various levels of the game.
IFA president, Jim Shaw said: “l privileged being part of a legacy that will remain in Northern Ireland for years to come.”
Irish FA Chief Executive, Patrick Nelson added: “This is fantastic news for the Irish FA, the wider football family and for Northern Ireland as a whole.
The IRFU Ulster Branch also welcomed the announcement Sir Nigel Hamilton, President of the Ulster Branch said: “We are delighted that we have received the funding that we sought in full to complete the re-development of Ravenhill.
“This funding will allow us to move towards our vision of becoming a major force in European rugby with first class facilities at Ravenhill and a thriving club game throughout Ulster.”
The GAA's Casement Park will become the country's biggest stadium with a 40,000 capacity from a £61.4million share of the pot.
There will be new or improved grounds for Glentoran and Crusaders with the planned new stadium for Glentoran on the site of the current Blanchflower playing fields getting the go-ahead.
Work is expected to begin soon on the grounds and national training centre with an hotel on site.