“A home to call our own.”
These were the words of Louth County Board Chairman Padraic O’Connor as the board outlined proposals for a new county ground last week at a special meeting in The Grove.
The ambitious plans – which included three different options – were unveiled to club delegates with a decision expected on August 24 – unless clubs decide that they need more time.
Amongst the three proposals was a glamorous option of going into a joint venture with DkIT to build a multi-purpose stadium that would hold 12,000 people.
Another option was to further redevelop the Darver Centre of Excellence, which would then accommodate 7,400 spectators standing only.
The other option is to re-develop the current Gaelic Grounds in Drogheda, which could bring the total attendance up to 7,000.
Clubs will have two weeks to come back to the board with questions on the proposals before the board will address them on August 10. After this, a vote is scheduled to be held on August 24 where the future of Louth’s county ground will be decided.
All three options have different costs associated with them, with the Darver option being the most difficult to attach an accurate sum to. However, Louth have been given a boost as Croke Park have met with the board and gave indications that they would give a grant of up to €1.5m in order to assist the development.
The price at re-developing the Gaelic Grounds would cost €3.8m, bringing the seated capacity to 3,000 with a new stand installed and allow for a further 4,000 standing. A new pitch would be laid along with further updates in floodlighting, dressing rooms, turnstiles and toilet facilities.
Darver is the most problematic option as the board would have to acquire more of the surrounding land around the facility.
Requirements for Darver would also have to see a new adequate infrastructure put in place that
could safely handle the increase in volume of traffic and furthermore. A whole new sewage system would have to be implemented as a water system of that size is not in operation at the moment.
The current budget estimation for Darver is based on current market prices, but could increase or decrease depending on market fluctuations.
The third option, a 50/50 joint partnership with DkIT is the most lucrative proposal as the money raised from stadium rental to soccer and rugby would be put back into the company and pay for pitch maintenance.
A budgeted sum of €6m has been placed on the project, which means Louth County Board may have to raise just €1.5m of Croke Park give the assurances of their grant.
Included in the DkIT proposal is a high-spec pitch, up to FIFA’s latest standards, two warm-up pitches, an indoor warm-up and preparation hall, floodlights and the use of full college facilities and car parking spaces.
Speaking on Wednesday night, Mr O’Connor said: “In the past Louth stood still with the county ground when regulations in the GAA were brought in. We have done nothing in the last number of years and this has to change.
“We spent a lot of money on Darver but we need somewhere where we can play our home games.” Louth had to relinquish home advantage in the first round of the All-Ireland qualifiers this year when they met Meath and the game was switched to Breffni Park in Cavan, due to the small capacity and health and safety regulations in Drogheda.
That is something the current board do not want to see happening again and now plans have been made to try and get the ball rolling on a new or redeveloped ground.
One thing Croke Park does not want to see is counties proposing plans for 20,000 plus stadiums, which are often left vacant and have high maintenance costs, thus the plans for Louth’s ground to be 12,000 or below.
If everything goes to plan, then the earliest we would see Louth taking to the pitch in an new ground will be 2014.
q Read more on page 63.
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