Full details released of Boucher Playing Fields Euro 2016 Belfast fanzone
Full details have been released for the new Euro 2016 fanzone in Belfast for Northern Ireland and the Republic's historic last 16 clashes this weekend.
The announcement that the fanzone would be at Boucher Playing Fields was made last night amid growing anger from Northern Ireland supporters who feared there would be no public space for them to watch our most important match in a generation.
Gates to the fanzone will open at 3pm on Saturday for the Northern Ireland match and 12 noon on Sunday for the Republic of Ireland match.
Admission will be on a first-come-first-served basis, and site capacity is limited.
There will be no parking at the site. Free shuttle bus services will operate between Donegall Square East and Boucher Road, starting 15 minutes before gates open each day.
There will be full bar and catering facilities on site. No alcohol will be allowed to be brought on to the site.
The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Brian Kingston, said: "Boucher Road is a great site, accessible to all parts of the city, and beyond. By locating the fanzone here, the Council is ensuring as many fans as possible get the chance to continue to demonstrate their phenomenal support for both teams as they enter this crucial knock-out stage.
"I would like to pay tribute to the team behind the Titanic Fanzone for the tremendous work they did during the qualifying round, and for all the hands-on support they have given us in relation to putting this new fanzone together in such a short period of time."
After the Belfast Telegraph highlighted the debacle yesterday, senior politicians stepped in to ensure that fans were not left disappointed.
The confusion started after this newspaper highlighted the fact that the Belsonic concerts this weekend meant that the Titanic Quarter could not be used as the fanzone for either the Northern Ireland or Republic matches.
On Saturday Northern Ireland play Wales in Paris, with the Republic facing host nation France in Lyon on Sunday.
Belsonic concerts planned for this weekend meant it was impossible to host the huge crowds in the Titanic Quarter.
But Yesterday morning, First Minister Arlene Foster promised: "It will be sorted."
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who was flying back from Ireland's 1-0 victory over Italy, gave a guarantee that "we will do our level best".
Football supporters desperate to see their biggest game for decades in true style suggested multiple venues across the city, including City Hall and Shaftesbury Square.
The IFA ruled out Windsor Park, saying it was not possible at such short notice.
The Belfast Telegraph also reported that the SSE Arena was mooted as a possible venue by Belfast City Council.
Belsonic organisers promised to post an update yesterday morning, but the silence was deafening well into the afternoon.
Mrs Foster gave the first concrete sign of hope as she arrived to open the new premises of a printing workshop in east Belfast just before 3pm yesterday. Asked by this paper if any progress had been made she replied: "I'm very pleased there is a resolution and that will be good news for all of the fans who have been so faithful in supporting all of their teams. The fanzone down at the Titanic actually wasn't run by city council at all, but they have stepped in, in conjunction with ourselves, and we hope that it provides a suitable place for all of the fans to enjoy the football."
Mrs Foster will be flying out to Paris tonight to get ready to watch the Northern Ireland versus Wales match.
Also speaking at the event was Alderman Jim Rodgers - High Sheriff of the City of Belfast.
Ahead of the official announcement, he confirmed to the Belfast Telegraph that Boucher Playing Fields would serve as the new venue. "I think that it's a brilliant venue," he said. "It's close to the motorways, the Westlink, the outer ring roads, and I don't think that anyone can complain.
"There's a lot of work to be done on the site. We need two screens, we need a lot of other equipment, including toilet facilities. But all of that will be in place. and I've no doubt that the fans will enjoy that location just as much as they enjoyed being down in Titanic."
Addressing the criticism the council faced, he insisted: "There are always going to people who will complain, but I think that this is the best location. All I'd hope and pray for now is that it's a dry Saturday and Sunday."
A source in the council said that the new fanzone would cost upwards of £100,000 to stage, and that an agreement over bar facilities has yet to be reached.
Green And White Army members said they were delighted to have a new fanzone, but had harsh words for the council's last-minute preparations.
Stewart Garrett (19), from the Shankill area, said: "I think it was disgraceful. They didn't believe we would make it into the last 16 of the games."
Peter Moore (24) from Rathcoole in north Belfast, added: "I think that it's actually a better venue than the last one. Titanic Quarter was a bit cramped for the last game.
"But I think the council should have had a back-up plan, just to make sure."
"It's been a mess from the Belsonic point of view," said Naomi Fox (31) from Magheralin.
"They really should have taken into account we could have got further and had faith."
While waiting for an answer yesterday afternoon, Kevin Fairfowl from Blazin Digital, which operates the big screen in Shaftesbury Square in south Belfast, offered to provide the venue.
"As long as there's plenty of people that can get in, that's okay" he said of the Boucher announcement.
While still happy to offer the big screen in Shaftesbury Square to show the match, he added it was "fantastic they've been able to pull it off. I know things in this country can take a long time to turn around, but I think they deserve a pat on the back for sorting it out".
Translink will operate shuttle buses this weekend from Belfast city centre to Boucher Road Playing Fields.
A free shuttle bus service will operate between Donegall Square East, Belfast and Boucher Road playing fields on both Saturday and Sunday for both the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland games.
The service will operate every fifteen minutes between 2pm and 8pm on Saturday and 12noon and 6pm on Sunday.
For further information follow @Translink_NI click on www.translink.co.uk or call 028 90 66 66 30